Giving Voice

Date: 12 July 2014
Venue: St Bedes Anglican Church

The cry of a newborn, the first word spoken after a long silence, the energy of many voices heard as one ... as individuals, we are compelled to give voice to our thoughts from the moment we first utter a sound. A composer, driven mad by this urge, might seek to reveal not only the power of music and language, but the essence of his or her own unique and mature ‘voice’.

The three works of David Lumsdaine, Elliott Gyger and Nigel Butterley in this program are by composers at the height of their writing powers. All three are drawn to vocal writing and all have found their voice through the setting of poetry to music.

Lumsdaine, who has lived mostly in the UK since the 90s, was moved to set The Tree Telling of Orpheus by poet Denise Levertov “as Orpheus' lyre stirred the leaves of the tree”. David was so inspired by this poem about a tree that tells of hearing Orpheus play his lyre, that from the first few bars to the end, “the music spun itself swiftly and easily”. Composed in 1990, this cantata for soprano and ensemble reveals a passion for the natural world, expressed through rhythm, colour and texture; Lumsdaine draws influence not only from western European music, but also from his recorded soundscapes and published archives of birdsong. In his own words, “composition is the activity of listening”.

Elliott Gyger’s giving voice is an intimate look at the theme of early childhood, the limitless potential (and uncertainty) of a new human life and the voice as a symbol of emerging identity. Elliott has set a collection of contemporary Australian poems by women writers together with the early words of his own daughter Sophia. Halcyon has a long association with Elliott’s music, performing and recording his epic From the Hungry Waiting Country and Petit Testament and most recently his Kingfisher piece The Pleiades at Midnightgiving voice won the prestigious Paul Lowin Song Cycle Award in 2013 and receives its premiere performance in this program.

A dominating figure in the Australian musical landscape, Nigel Butterley’s compositional voice is one of tremendous integrity and spiritual largess. His Orphei Mysteria, commissioned by Halcyon in 2008, explores the myth of Orpheus in the hands of Melbourne writer and poet Patricia Excell, who draws on a life-long love of Greek mythology and religion. Butterley often assembles the set texts himself and has been a devotee of the poetry of Kathleen Raine throughout his musical journey. Gyger, who is intimately acquainted with Butterley's compositions and currently completing a book about his music, writes that “even Butterley's instrumental works are often poetic in inspiration.”

Giving Voice will be performed by Halcyon under the baton of Matthew Wood, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, who now shares his time between Australia and the United Kingdom working regularly with some of the worlds leading orchestras, companies and ensembles.

David Lumsdaine - A Tree Telling of Orpheus (1990)
Elliott Gyger - giving voice (2013) 
Nigel Butterley - Mysteria Orphei (2008) 

Matthew Wood  conductor  Alison Morgan  soprano  Jenny Duck-Chong  mezzo soprano  Sally Walker  flutes  Peter Smith  clarinet  Alexandre Oguey  oboe/cor anglais  Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich  violin  James Wannan  viola  Geoffrey Gartner  cello  Giuseppe Zangari  guitar