Halcyon: The Poet’s Voice

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Date: 10/09/2016

Starting at: 5:00 PM

Venue: St Bedes Anglican Church (14 College Street, Drummoyne, NSW, 2047)

Event summary:

Tickets: $35 Adult | $25 Concession


“A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate; it goes on to become.” – W.H. Auden

Each art has a language of its own that can ’speak’ to us. Poetry can resonant within us, its chosen words honed into crystallised form. Music, wordless, can stir, move, shake or provoke us. In song, these two powerful languages are synthesised, the poet’s and the composer’s voices intertwining, shining new light on the words while drawing out fresh musical ideas. Yet no one song or poem speaks in the same way to us all; our responses are as diverse as our human experience.

The songs and cycles in The Poet’s Voice are the work of contemporary Australian composers, inspired by Australian poets and writers, who explore their shared understanding of our world, our environment and our everyday life with works spanning a period of almost 50 years. Captured moments of simple lives often have a surprising depth when words and music combine; love letters and clotheslines, birds and birth, gazing in rockpools or at mountain ranges. Alongside songs by Margaret Sutherland, Brett Dean, Elliott Gyger and Katy Abbott are the words of Judith Wright, Michael Leunig, the fictional Ern Malley and Christopher Wallace-Crabbe. Andrew Schultz is both poet and composer in his recent song cycle Paradise, setting his own words to music.

Roger Smalley’s Piano Trio (1991), commissioned for the 1st Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and still one of his most popular and recorded works, acknowledges the anniversary of the composer’s death in 2015. Inspired not by words, but by the music of another composer, this tour-de-force piece is one of several that Smalley wrote based on Chopin’s Mazurkas.

Gordon Kerry is renowned for both his words and music. He is an author and experienced music journalist and the composer of vocal works of many forms: among them operas, choral works and chamber songs (including a work for Halcyon’s 2013 Kingfisher project). The Poet’s Voice will feature the world premiere of his new work Three Malouf Songs (2015). Commissioned by John and Denise Elkins, the piece celebrates a place of special significance to them – the Glasshouse Mountains. Kerry’s own love of the Australian bush and the beach drew him to three poems by David Malouf – Stars, Rockpools and Glasshouse Mountains. With his sensitivity to text and ear for delicate sonorities, Kerry has created a substantial through-composed chamber work for mezzo, violin, cello and piano.


  • Jenny Duck-Chong mezzo soprano
  • Alison Morgan soprano
  • Ewan Foster violin
  • Geoffrey Gartner cello
  • Daniel Herscovitch piano

Regarded as a leading exponent of new vocal music, Sydney-based Halcyon presents stunning performances of vocal chamber music from around the world, with a special emphasis on Australian content. A chameleonic ensemble of varying size and instrumentation, the line up is drawn together for each project by artistic director, mezzo soprano Jenny Duck-Chong.

Over the past 18 years Halcyon has championed and commissioned new contemporary vocal chamber music, and forged lasting connections across the globe with composers, music centres and institutions as well as mentoring the next generation of composers and performers.

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