When any music ensemble commemorates 15 years it is cause for celebration but when that group specialises in music of ‘now’ and in particular that of Australian composers it is appropriate for all to cheer and to do so with a big voice. The vocal ensemble Halcyon celebrated this milestone by premiering 21 short works, spread over two concerts, all written by local composers.
Alison Morgan (soprano) and Jenny Duck-Chong (mezzo) are Halcyon and throughout the 10 works performed in the second recital at the Sydney Conservatorium (March 29) they displayed fine ensemble and a great sensitivity in interpretation.
Morgan was soloist in two works and showed great dramatic skills as well as lyricism. Duck-Chong’s three solos drew the listener into the soundworld she was intent to share.
Several works stood out and not surprisingly they were by the most prominent composers.
Nigel Butterley’s Nature Changes at the Speed of Life was another example of his mastery at the miniature form. Indeed, I know of no other composer in Australia who can contain and develop intense musical ideas in such a short timeframe. And having said that, Gordon Kerry’s Music (La Musique) was a delightful marriage of vocal lines and intelligently wrought instrumental writing. This is a very beautiful composition and should be taken up by groups far and near.
Andrew Ford’s folk-song like and musically happy To My Excellent Lucasia, on our Friendship was a perfect concert opener as it sang out celebratory phrases from its opening bars.
All One Water by Gillian Whitehead reminisced music from the mid 20th century English tradition invoking the music of Ben Britten and was a good vehicle to show the skills of the singers.
The concert concluded with the most ecstatic composition of the night, Graham Hair’s All About Anna. Apart from the strong and often rising vocal line Hair wove around the text virtuosic writing for the flute and the vibraphone.
Joining the singers in this birthday concert were four instrumentalists who in any other event could easily been the main focus. Laura Chislett (flutes) and Jason Noble (clarinets) are well known as performers of virtuosic new music. Cellist Geoffrey Gartner and percussionist William Jackson were outstanding.
Five of the composers were in attendance and the audience responded to them as much as the performers. A true celebration.