A Sense of Connection with Halcyon and Acacia



A Sense of Connection is the inaugural collaboration between champions of new music, the vocal ensemble Halcyon and the Acacia Quartet. The concert celebrates a shared passion for new music and the very personal relationships between the ensembles and the composers who wrote the music included in the programme. All the music has been written written in the past decade.

Halcyon soprano Alison Morgan gives her insights into how the music was put together:

“The program opens with a work for the quartet, transcriptions by Elena Kats-Chernin from JS Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena. The quartet developed a special relationship with the composer when she heard them play her music in 2011. Kats-Chernin invited the Acacia Ensemble to record her complete works for string quartet, resulting in a world-premiere CD recording, Fast Blue Village,  volume 1 which won an Editor’s Choice selection in July’s Limelight Magazine. Vexations 840, the music production and recording enterprise behind this venture describes the transcription as ‘a brilliant re-imagining of Bach.’

Later in the program, Halcyon’s mezzo soprano Jenny Duck-Chong joins with Acacia Quartet to present the Australian premiere of Gordon Kerry’s Goodison Quartet #1:  Country Music.  Halcyon first came to know of this work in 2006 at the Paul Lowin Awards when it was shortlisted as a finalist alongside Elliott Gyger’s From the Hungry Waiting Country, Damien Ricketson’s A Line Has Two and the winning work Rosalind Page’s Sonetos del Amor Oscuro.  Jenny says, “as it was the only work that Halcyon had not premiered, we felt it was important to get to know it better!” Gordon Kerry has enjoyed well-deserved recognition this year as both Musica Viva’s featured composer for 2012 and with his recent opera production, Midnight Son (Victorian Opera).

The remainder of the program is a sensual indulgence, with Osvaldo Golijov’s How Slow the Wind opening the second half, sung by Alison Morgan. How Slow the Wind is a setting of two short Emily Dickinson poems. This dark and beautiful work was Golijov’s response to the death in an accident of his friend Mariel Stubrin. Alison Morgan quotes Golijov:”He writes, ‘I had in mind one of those seconds in life that is frozen in the memory, forever-a sudden death, a single instant in which life turns upside down, different from the experience of death after a long agony.’ The lines are so fluid and langorous, the experience of singing it is almost like stepping into a warm bath!” Described as “ one of the finest melodists of our time”, Golijov is an Argentinian, now living in the US and the recipient of two Grammy Awards for his 2007 opera Ainadamar: Fountain of Tears. 

Lyle Chan’s string quartet Mark and Adrian are her sons is a response to death, not sudden, but after a long illness. It was sketched while the composer was an AIDS activist with the Sydney group ACT UP. In 1991, they publicly confronted Member of Parliament Franca Arena, who was seeking financial compensation for “innocent victims of AIDS” (in her view, those who were infected through blood transfusions) while denying this to other people with AIDS (gay men). This moving work came into being after Chan discovered the true reason for her homophobia – her tremendous anguish that both her sons were gay – and realized, ‘if we could read the secret history of those we would like to punish, we would find in each life enough grief and suffering to make us stop wishing anything more on them.’

The final piece in this rich musical journey is Graham Hair’s Octet with Voices for four female singers and string quartet, an unusual but beautifully balanced combination of instruments. Graham’s piece was given its Australian premiere by Halcyon in Melbourne in 2005. Clive O’Connell, reviewer for The Age at the time wrote, ‘pick of the program was the Hair work, a setting of poems by Malouf, McAuley and the famous Judith Wright lyric that gave the work its title. The voices moved together and apart with masterly variety, the text given its due and remaining clear even in verbally complex passages, the accompanying string quartet shimmering with excitement and providing a vivid commentary on the verbal content, separate but equal with the Halcyon voices and having the last say in a postlude of unabashed euphony and humanity: a most moving work, that we could easily have heard again.’ “

Tickets: $35/$25

Bookings: City Recital Hall Box Office www.cityrecitalhall.com or call (02) 8256 2222 or 1300 797 118

Booking fees may apply.




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