First Stones 2011

There are a number of blogs online at resonate by the composers Lachlan, Nicole, Pedro, Anastasia, Peggy, Owen, James and Chris as well as earlier ones by Alison and Jenny

First Stones was Halcyon’s inaugural chamber song project for emerging composers.  This was a wonderful opportunity for emerging Australian composers to explore the intimate realm of vocal chamber music under the mentorship of one of Australia’s leading contemporary art music ensembles.  Nine new composers; nine new works. These young composers developed their new works throughout the year, under the mentorship of Halcyon and composer Elliott Gyger, with preliminary seminars and workshops in May and workshops on their first drafts in July. Their final works were performed by Halcyon on November 19.

2011 participants were:  Damian Griffin, Lachlan Hughes, Nicole Murphy, Pedro
Oliveira Woolmer
, Anastasia Pahos, Peggy Polias, Owen Salome, James Wade and
Chris Williams.

Here's a bit of an introduction to each of them and their reflections on the May
seminars and workshops.

Composer Damian Griffin (b. 1982) has a passion for choral music, enriched through associations with St John’s College Choir and the Sydney University Musical, Madrigal and Musical Theatre Societies while he completed an honours degree in Science (Advanced Mathematics). He further developed his education in composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was a recipient of the Doris Burnett Ford Scholarship in 2005.

Several of Damian’s works were performed in 2008 at concerts run by the Sydney Eclectic Composers’ Society, including Just A Minute... (a series of short solo pieces) and adapted movements from his string quartet Chamber Music and Tenpin Bowling. Many of these reflected his quirky view that contemporary music need not be painfully serious all of the time. He has enjoyed composing for and assisting Sounds Fine, the youth choir of Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium, and has also found copying and transcription work a productive outlet for his analytical, perfectionist streak. In 2010 his work Zmey Lipa – The Dragon of the Linden Tree, a collaborative project with author Jacqueline Brocker, was performed by the cross-artform organisation Kammerklang, in association with new music ensemble Halcyon.

"It is a privilege to experience Halcyon’s talent and professionalism, bringing our music to life. They and Elliott encouraged us to explore new techniques in a practical, supportive and collaborative way."


Lachlan Hughes is a Sydney-based composer, currently studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Damien Ricketson and previously with Nigel Butterly, Paul Stanhope and Matthew Hindson . His works have been performed by Chronology Arts as well as Volta Collective, of which he is a directing member.  His piano miniature 'I felt a funeral in my brain' was performed by Jacob Abela as part of the 2010 ISCM World New Music Days Festival. As a performer, Lachlan sings regularly with both the Sydney Chamber Choir and the Choir of St. James Church, Sydney.

"The weekend of seminars was a fantastic opportunity to both learn and experiment with new ideas. Alison and Jenny showed their generosity and musicianship in the workshops on Sunday, by far the most rewarding experience of the weekend for me."


Brisbane-based composer Nicole Murphy is currently completing her Masters in Music at the Queensland Conservatorium under the guidance of Dr. Gerardo Dirié. During her undergraduate degree, Nicole studied under Gerard Brophy and was awarded a Bachelor of Music First Class Honours in 2004. She is the recipient of various awards, including the A.G. Francis Prize for Composition (2001), the Inaugural Alan Lane Award for Composition (2004), and Inaugural Collusion/QCGU Composition Prize, for her setting of Australian writer John Tranter’s work The Moment of Waking (2004). In 2006 Nicole collaborated with choreographer Timothy Harbour to produce a work for the Australian Ballet’s BodyTorque Season. Nicole has participated in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Composer School (2010), Symphony Australia/Orchestra Victoria’s Composer Development Program (2010) and the Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra’s Composer Workshops (2011) and has received commissions from eminent arts organisations including the Australian Ballet (2006), the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (2008), Chronology Arts (2009 and 2010) and the Definiens Project (2011).

"The first weekend of Halcyon’s First Stones Project was an energising and eye-opening experience. Composer Elliot Gyger shared the artistic design behind a number of his own vocal works and performers Alison Morgan and Jenny Duck-Chong shared their knowledge of the voice and contemporary vocal repertoire, as well as showing immense dedication to each composers’ intentions as they workshopped our sketches."


Pedro Oliveira Woolmer graduated in 2010 from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music in Composition with First Class Honours. During his time at the Conservatorium, he studied with Nigel Butterley, Trevor Pearce and Damien Ricketson and completed a thesis on the late harmonic language of György Ligeti. Oliveira Woolmer’s pieces have been performed in eisteddfods and a number of public concerts over the last four years. Most recently, pianist Joy Ng performed his solo piano piece …of Tlön… for her graduating public recital. 2010 also saw the performance of a work for soprano and small ensemble, Empty Shells, by Alison Morgan and the Kammerklang ensemble. Kammerklang also gave a performance of his work for piano and string ensemble, …of mind…. These works, and others by Oliveira Woolmer, employ drama as its foundation, treating the musicians as characters. The relationships between these characters are often the driving force of his music.

"The weekend proved an invaluable opportunity to be inspired by the vocal capabilities of Halcyon while simultaneously inspired by the complex creativity of Elliot Gyger."


Anastasia Pahos is a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music working on an undergraduate degree in music composition. An accomplished musician (piano/flute) and choral singer, she has been composing music since high school and has already received recognition, including shared first place in the WomenSing Youth Inspiring Youth Competition (2011), which focuses on chamber music for voice, the Matthew Hindson Composition Award (2009), the Australian Music Centre Composition Award (2007) and the Reverend Kenneth Cornwall Award for Outstanding Work in Composition (2006). This year, Anastasia has also become a member of the production team for the Australian Music Centre.  Anastasia’s long term professional goal is to score and conduct music for the media industry.

"How do you know when an experience like the 1st Halcyon Workshop has been truly rewarding?
1. You learned something new.
2. You were challenged.
3. You were brought to realise and understand different perspectives and ways of approaching composition.
4. You met like-minded people and forged a relationship with performers.
5. You enjoyed yourself.
6. You feel inspired.
Well, Halcyon has fulfilled all of the above."


Peggy Polias is a composer, music copyist and arts administrator based in Sydney.  Peggy prepares music scores, instrumental parts and other print music materials for some of Australia’s leading composers, as well as working part time as the Australian Music Centre.  In 2010 she graduated with a Master of Music (Composition), supervised by Professor Anne Boyd at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.  Peggy used the Matryoshka (Russian nested doll) metaphor to frame discussion and comparison of her Master’s compositions.  One such work was The Moon (2007) for 11 instruments, joint winner of the 2007 Fellowship of Australian Composers/University of Sydney Women’s Composer Award.  The Moon was premiered at the 2009 Kammerklang concert at the Sydney Conservatorium.  Peggy attended the AYO National Music Camp in 2010 and has also had works performed by Chronology Arts, and at the Canberra International Music Festival.  In 2011 Peggy is writing for the Halcyon First Stones project, the Kammerklang Worship the Machine trapeze concert, and the Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra Composer Workshops.  Peggy has played Javanese gamelan music for a number of years with the Langen Suka Sydney Gamelan Association.  This has been a significant influence on her music, along with aspects of minimalism, feminism, and handicrafts.

"Intense and rewarding.  A forum for exchange of knowledge, expertise and ideas that makes me want to take risks and move out of my compositional comfort zone."

Owen Salome is a composer and flautist based in Sydney and is currently completing his Bachelor of Music (Honours) with a major in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. His piece Anemone, a soliloquy for actress with piano and live electronics, is one of 4 pieces being performed as part of 'Fourcast: the New and Contemporary Classical Music Performance Grant Concert' at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in June 2011. Owen was one also of the 5 emerging composers who worked with Speak Percussionin 2010/2011to develop new works for percussion quartet and his percussion quartet Ensō was workshopped and premiered in April 2011 as part of the 'Speak Percussion: Emerging Artists Program'. Owen was among the young composers commissioned by the Kammerklang Orchestrato compose a number of works for the Orchestra's 2010 season and his work Resonance was premiered in May 2010 by members of the orchestraand guest artists Halcyon. In 2010Owen was also musical director, composer and sole musician for the 'Semicolonbackslash Productions'show Landing, a theatre piece directed by Matthieu Cadart that toured to both the Sydney and Melbourne fringe festivals.
"Having worked with Halcyon once before I am thrilled to have this opportunity. The May seminars were wonderful; the idea of doing an overnight composition task was a fantastic one. It was a somewhat daunting prospect to have to compose two complete, if short, pieces in one evening. However once I had figured out how I intended to approach the text, the task turned out to be very fun; watching Jenny perform some of the sillier aspects of my piece, (for instance: bubbling her lips while ululating, and rolling her R's whilst heavily breathing in and out), was one of the more ridiculous and enjoyable 'classical' music experiences I have yet had." 

James developed an interest in music comparatively late which allowed his compositions to be largely influenced by philosophical and abstract ideas more than by other composers or genres of music. Themes relating to environment, identity and the nature of life feature prominently in his work.
His music has been performed and broadcast around Australia and internationally by many ensembles and musicians including the Melbourne, Tasmanian and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras. James has also worked with a great number of Australian and New Zealand composers and conductors including Brett Dean, Maria Grenfell, Matthew Hindson, James Ledger, Richard Mills, Paul Stanhope and Ken Young.
James was born in Melbourne and educated at the University of Melbourne. He received a Bachelor of Arts in 2001, having studied philosophy, psychology and music history prior to turning his attention seriously towards music. Initially studying voice with Steven Grant, then composition with Stuart Greenbaum, Johanna Selleck and Brenton Broadstock, he graduated again from the University of Melbourne in 2005 with a Bachelor of Music (Honours). After several years of international travel including a year of study in composition at the University of British Columbia in Canada, he returned to Australia to continue his work.

"This is a fantastic opportunity which Halcyon has provided. The propagation of new music is invaluable in a time when the support for new work is meagre, especially in the field of contemporary vocal music."


Chris Williams is a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he completed his undergraduate degree in composition with first class honours. Chris has recently been selected for the masters program at the University of Oxford, studying under Robert Saxton, and was, in 2008, one of only six composers worldwide to be selected by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, to attend his Advanced Composition course at the Dartington International Summer School in England.

In Australia, Chris’s music has been commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and also performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the Young Australian Composer Award run by the Chamber Strings of Melbourne, adjudicated by John Hopkins, and in 2010 was Composer-In-Residence with The Australian Voices.

In 2011 Chris is featured as an emerging artist with Speak Percussion in Melbourne, and is the winner of the Youth Prize in the Jean Bogan Memorial Prize for Piano Composition. Chris has been recognized as the recipient of an ArtStart grant from the Australian Council for the Arts, given to outstanding emerging artists. He is an associate artist at the Australian Music Centre.

"Truly great artists teach as they inspire. In sharing their art, Alison, Jenny and Elliott inspired us all, but their insight was the most important lesson."

NEWS:  Our first weekend of seminars and workshops are now complete.  Participants have the next month to create their drafts before workshopping with the musicians begins in July. 

Read more about the project in Australian Music Centre's resonate ezine here



November 19 

FIRST STONES performance

presented by the New Music Network
Music Workshop Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Alison Morgan soprano Jenny Duck-Chong mezzo soprano  Diana Springford clarinets  Geoffrey Gartner cello Genevieve Lang harp  Jo Allan piano



For more information please email:


This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.






Image:  Liz Duck-Chong


2011 Participants
Damian Griffin
Lachlan Hughes
Nicole Murphy
Pedro Oliveira Woolmer
Anastasia Pahos
Peggy Polias
Owen Salome
James Wade
Chris Williams



In association with the
Australian Music Centre


Read Jenny's first blog on the project
in resonate here



This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.










































































contemporary art music



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