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A House in Heaven Publication Details

  Catalogue Number -
PEL2026 SATB and treble choir

Voicing/Instrumentation -
SATB and treble choirs and piano
with organ and flute

Level of Difficulty - Moderate

Uses/Season - Festival, Concert,
Memorial Services

Duration -
5:30 mins

Pages Music -
20 pages SATB/treble - 28 page booklet
Format -
SATB and trebles/piano choral octavo

Copyright Year - 2001

Perusal Score PDF
SATB and trebles perusal only


PEL2026 A House In Heaven derives its title from the words of eight-year old James Birrell, to whom the work is dedicated, who, nearing the end of his battle with the terminal illness neuroblastoma, declared with the innocent wisdom and faith of a child, "Jesus is building me a house in Heaven."  This work combines SATB choir with children's choir and treble solo (singing James' words) with accompaniment provided by piano, organ and flute. Texts include Psalm 8, M. Babcock's 'This Is My Father's World', and poetry by English clergyman and author Henry Charles Beeching and Canadian poet Bliss Carman. The setting is broad, beautiful and poignant, a gorgeous piece to touch and inspire, evoking a profound joy in life and the wonders of creation.  Elegantly combines the voices of adult choir and children's choir.

Dedication: "Commissioned by the Peterborough Singers for James Birrell,  a boy who showed us we could sing when we thought we could only cry. February 24, 2001"

James Birrell was the son of Peterborough Singers Music Director Syd Birrell. Nine months after the premiere performance of this work, eight-year old James Birrell died of neuroblastoma. 

  Sound Clip
Not Yet recorded

Non-commercial, archival recording of the premiere 2001 by The Peterborough Singers.


Order No.

Item Description Price Buy Score


PEL2026 SATB/Trebles-PDF
Choral score SATB/Trebles and piano
Digital download (PDF) with license for 24 reprints.
Please order multiple bundles
if you require more than 24 reprints.
$54.00 license
per 24 reprints
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Digital download
PEL2026 SATB/Trebles-PUB
Choral score SATB/Trebles and piano
Minimum Order 40 scores.
This is a custom order printed item.
Takes two weeks. Ships to U.S. addresses only.
$4.60 unit price
(Minimum 40 scores)
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SATB Choral Published
Minimum order: 40


Full Score and Instrumental Parts for Flute and Organ

Licensed Digital Download
Full Score and Parts (Letter-size)

PDF with Licensed Terms of Use
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Full Score and
Digital download


A House in Heaven

O Lord our Governor, how exalted is your name in all the world!
From the lips of children you have ordained praise.

Psalm 8:1 and 2

This is my Fatherís world;
And to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Fatherís world;
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas,
His hand the wonders wrought.   

This is my Fatherís world;
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Makerís praise.
This is my Fatherís world; 
He shines in all thatís fair;
In the rustling grass I hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Fatherís world;
Oh, let me neíer forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Fatherís world;
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring.
God reigns; let the earth be glad.                                                 

Maltbie D. Babcock

God who created me
Nimble and light of limb,
In three elements free,
To run, to ride, to swim:
Not when the sense is dim,
But now from the heart of joy,
I would remember Him:
Take the thanks of a boy.  

Henry Charles Beeching

Jesus is building me a house in heaven.

James Birrell

I took a day to search for God,
And found Him not. But as I trod
By rocky ledge, through woods untamed,
Just where one scarlet lily flamed,
I saw His footprint in the sod. 

Then suddenly, all unaware,
Far off in the deep shadows, where
A solitary hermit thrush
Sang through the holy twilight hush Ė
I heard His voice upon the air. 

And even as I marvelled how
God gives us Heaven here and now
In a stir of wind that hardly shook
The poplar leaves beside the brook -

His hand was light upon my brow.

Back to the world with quickening start
I looked and longed for any part
In making saving Beauty be Ö
And from that kindling ecstasy
I knew God dwelt within my heart. 

Bliss Carman 


"This isnít the Singersí first commissioned work, but it will probably be their favourite, and, we hope, most far-reaching. The source for the title and a recurring lyric is James Birrell himself. In 1999, lying in great pain and unable to move, he whispered to his mother, "I know Jesus is building me a house in heaven." The touching faith of these words continued to resonate as James improved. Jamesí many high points of energy, playfulness and purpose since then have served to make his words sound even sweeter.

So, when it came time to decide what to ask of composer Paul Halley, there was no hesitation from the Birrells or the choir board: "Make us a picture of James Birrell in song."

To Jamesí words, Halley added the familiar childhood hymn "This Is My Fatherís World" and two nineteenth-century poems: one by Canadian Bliss Carman, the other by Englishman Henry Charles Beeching. The story these texts tell together is of faith in God; of Natureís vibrant testimony, and of a childís readiness to experience joy. Musically, the piece plays adult and childrenís choruses against each other and then weaves them together with flute, piano and organ into something both touching and triumphant. One of the most emotional points comes in the middle of the piece, when Jamesí words are sung by a lone boy soprano.

Practising the first few times was an exercise in self-controlled musicianship for both adults and children. But by dress rehearsal, it was polished enough to record. The premiere performance included Paul Halley on piano, Rhonda Larson on flute, Syd Birrell on organ and Maureen Harris-Lowe conducting the Peterborough Childrenís Chorus and the Peterborough Singers. It was recorded twice more, at the afternoon and evening performances, to capture the energy the audience brought to the piece. Though they had been asked, for recording purposes, to refrain from applause for a few moments after the piece was ended, audience members could not contain themselves. And the performers could not contain their smiles.

The Peterborough Singers could not have managed such a high-quality commission without the graciousness of composer Paul Halley and Pelagos, and the financial support of Discus Dental Canada and the Peterborough and District Dental Association. The latter underwrote the cost of the commission, and the former waived their recording royalty so that a special single-track CD can be sold to the public.

We are also moved by the kindness of Actor Tom Hanks, who has supported our fight against Neuroblastoma. As well as corresponding with the Birrell family, and endorsing the House in Heaven CD, Mr. Hanks has personally autographed a limited number of CD's which are currently for sale for $100. All proceeds go to the James Birrell Fund for Neuroblastoma and income tax receipts will be issued for each autographed CD purchased."


James Birrell, just six years old, lay close to death. He was suffering from a rare childhood cancer called neuroblastoma. As he lay in great pain, unable to move, he whispered to his mother the words ďJesus is building me a house in heavenĒ.
James died in December of 2001, but research into better treatments for this disease continue through The James Birrell Neuroblastoma Research Fund whose Honorary Patron is actor Tom Hanks. Visit www.JamesBirrell.ca for more information. A CD recording of the premiere performance of ĎA House In Heavení with Paul Halley, Rhonda Larson, and the Peterborough Singers, directed by Syd Birrell, is available from www.PeterboroughSingers.com All proceeds from the sale of this CD benefit The James Birrell Neuroblastoma Research Fund.