‘Small’ is wonderful


Halcyon-soprano Alison Morgan(L) and mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck- Chong (R)

‘Big’ may be ‘beautiful’, but ‘small’ is ‘wonderful’ in Halcyon’s presentation of of their early June concert Small Wonders. Focusing exclusively on works for very small forces, it demands the soloistic talents of each ensemble performer.

Halcyon’s Alison Morgan (soprano) and Jenny-Duck Chong (mezzo-soprano) are joined by guest artists cellist Geoffrey Gartner, pianist Jo Allan and flautist Laura Chislett-Jones in a programme featuring combinations of duos and trios only.

The programme features a line up of  unique works from the new music repertoire, amongst them, George Crumb’s  Apparition, (1979) and Morton Feldman’s Voices and Cello (1973). Also, works by Kerry Andrew, a British, 30- something Gen X composer who also performs under the stage name You Are Wolf , Giorgio Colombo Taccani (b 1961, Milan) and student of Ligeti; Julian Yu (b 1957, Beijing) and Nicholas Vines, (b 1967, Sydney). Yu who now lives in Australia was a Composition Fellow at Tanglewood where he won the Koussevitsky Tanglewood Composition Prize in 1988 and a swag of other composition awards from around the world. Nicholas Vines is a Sydney composer who completed his doctoral studies in composition at Harvard with Harrison Birtwistle, Elliot Gyger and Judith Weir, amongst others. Most recently his composition Uncanny Valley was performed by pianist Zubin Kanga which won the pianist the 2012 APRA NSW State Award for Performance of the Year, an award for which he was co-winner in 2011 as well, adding to his collection of composition prizes from around the world.

The music of Melbourne composer Katy Abbott is featured along with two new works – Lovely How Lives by Moya Henderson and giving voice by Elliott Gyger, both small-scale pre-cursors of works-in-progress which Halcyon will perform in full chamber version in 2013 in celebration of their 15th birthday year.

Crumb’s (b1929) Apparition was his first work for solo voice and piano. It’s a song cycle with words from Walt Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, part of a set of poems entitled Memories of President Lincoln. Whitman wrote “When Lilacs …” in the aftermath of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865.

In it, three vocalises are interspersed amongst six songs, each forming a piece of a larger vision, eventually coalescing as a tableau. The words and music focus on concise, highly contrasting metaphors for existence and death. Yet Crumb’s cycle offers reassurance, for just as in Whitman’s verse, death is never depicted as an ending of life. Instead, it is circular, always a beginning or an enriched return to a universal life-force.

New York born Morton Feldman’s (1926 -1987) Voices and Cello  is a work for two female voices and cello and continues in the abstract style he adopted in the 1970s. He was strongly influenced by art, especially the paintings of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, creating in his music an alternative notation that allowed music that was timbral and non-metric. Feldman wanted a sound world unlike anything before and rejected existing traditions and patterns of organising sound.

The collaboration between Nicholas Vines and Halcyon is particularly salient and empathic. Halcyon is Ensemble – in – Residence at Sydney Grammar School, where Vines is Artistic Director of Music. Small Wonders is Halcyon’s inaugural performance in the no small wonder that is Sydney Grammar’s spectacular New Hall, hewn out of Sydney sandstone.

Tickets: $35/$25
Bookings:  City Recital Hall Box Office  (02) 8256 2222 or 1300 797 118 or online at www.cityrecitalhall.com.au
Booking fees may apply

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney

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