William Billings (7 October 1746, Boston, Mass. - 26 September 1800, Boston) was an American composer, regarded as the first American choral composer.
Billings was a tanner’s apprentice by trade and acquired his musical skills through individual study and determination. He produced a series of books containing songs and fuguing tunes between 1770 and 1794. Billings began teaching in singing schools in the Boston area in 1769. The high reputation he earned in this endeavor led him to posts of musical leadership in many of Boston’s leading churches. During the Revolutionary War, Billings supported the patriots with music for their cause. His most famous works are the hymn tune Chester and the song, The Rose of Sharon. Unfortunately, he was unable to earn a living in music and died in poverty.
Works for Winds
- Billings Suite (arr. Gardner) (1971)
- Chester (arr. Calhoun) (1778/2014)
- Chester (arr. Osterling) (1778/1982)
- Chester (arr. Tolmage) (1778/1961)
- David's Lamentation
- Fantasy on Chester (arr. Story) (2011)
- The Original Thirteen (arr. Ployhar) (1975)
- Thanksgiving Hymn (arr. Hartley) (2004)