General Education

A passionate advocate for contemporary vocal chamber music, Halcyon has devoted considerable time and energy over the years to connecting with the next generation of young composers and musicians.  Residencies at inner city schools in Sydney included in-class presentations and performances, giving students insights into the key concepts and compositional  and performance aspects of a range of works, as well as giving them the first hand opportunity to see the ensemble at work and the pieces performed live in concert.

At both secondary and tertiary institutions in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, Halcyon has run numerous composition projects for students, involving the workshopping and performance of many new works. They have also presented lectures to composition and vocal students and introduced them to highlights of the repertoire, key considerations when writing for the voice and the diversity in contemporary vocal writing. Recently, Halcyon’s director presented her insights on 'How to approach a score - A performer’s perspective’ to high school teachers at The Australian Society for Music Education (NSW) 2017 Composition Day, the first time a performer has been invited to participate in this event.  

Halcyon loves to engage with young composers, artists and their teachers and share their knowledge and love of this intimate and rewarding repertoire to inspire future generations.  Please contact us for more details.  

Writing for the voice - what do composers really need to know?

  • i. An introduction to contemporary vocal writing

  • ii. Further explorations

A presentation in one or two parts.  Part I includes an outline of the vocal instrument and its abilities, techniques for good vocal writing and common mistakes, and, through score and audio example, a overview of a range of contemporary vocal repertoire illustrating the diversity of effective text setting and ensemble considerations

Possible topics to be covered in Part II:  the trained voice and its physiology; the voice as an instrument in chamber music; why range is not the only question; text: how it can be used, why it matters, choices and consequences; performability; collaboration between composer and performer

Suitable for:

  • Secondary music or composition students and their teachers and tertiary compositions students.  Can be combined with various scales of practical workshops for student compositions.  See First Stones

How to approach a score - A performer’s perspective

This seminar gives a brief introduction to the voice as an instrument and then looks at approaches to text, vocal writing, notation and ensemble matters in vocal chamber music with many score and audio examples of Australian contemporary vocal works from Halcyon’s repertoire. Explores the complementary ideas of a composer’s intent and a performer's role in interpretation.  How clear is a composer’s intent?  And what does a performer bring to a piece as an interpreter?  

Suitable for:

  • Secondary music or composition students and their teachers and tertiary compositions students who wish to approach  contemporary scores from a different perspective and discover a range of new repertoire and personal insights from a performer of many years experience.

  • Also suitable for younger singers and their teachers seeking to explore this area of repertoire .

A snapshot of contemporary vocal repertoire (and the benefits of working with living composers)

  • i. for voice and piano

  • ii. For voice and chamber ensemble

An overview of a diverse range of repertoire including handpicked examples of contemporary repertoire and  discussion of relevant Halcyon commissions.  

Can include discussion of what skills are required to work in this field  Can focus exclusively on Australian or commissioned material or a more global perspective.  

Suitable for:

  • Secondary or tertiary students or teachers of singing or composition.  


Halcyon also offers masterclasses for tertiary students to workshop pieces for performance.  This can be staged in conjunction with any of the above seminars.


Kingfisher: Songs for Halcyon

A tailored presentation which focuses on selected works from the 21 pieces commissioned for the project.  

Requirements: projection and audio capabilities.

These short songs provide excellent study material to look at the diversity of contemporary vocal writing by a wealth of  Australian composers and an excellent overview of vocal and ensemble writing, text setting and performance practicalities.  

Suitable for:

  • secondary music or composition students and their teachers or tertiary composition students.

For more information see the Kingfisher project page.

War Letters

An interactive presentation which focuses on four newly-commissioned works setting the words of everyday Australians during WWI.  Features full ensemble in performance.  

Requirements:  piano, 6 music stands, 6 chairs

An opportunity to experience Halcyon at work and gain insights from composer and performers about the works and their performance.  Focuses on four newly-commissioned works setting the words of everyday Australians during WWI.  Fascinating in the historical insights it provides into the lives of these writers, who were often only very young men and women themselves, these new works speak powerfully to our generation about the personal effects of war on the lives of individuals, seen through the eyes of four generations of Australian composers.

Suitable for:

• Year 9-12 students and their teachers

For more information see the War Letters project page.

First Stones and other practical composition projects

Requirements: variable

First Stones was an intensive young composers project staged by Halcyon with composer-mentor Elliott Gyger which spanned seven months.  It proved to be an invigorating creative impetus for the nine young composers involved, invaluable in improving their understanding of successful vocal writing and for their interactions with both the performers and composers present.  It featured a weekend of seminars with a brief composition assignment and workshop in May, a week of intensive workshops with full ensemble of draft pieces and revisions in July and final rehearsals and performance of finished works in November.  

We have also run a range of smaller composition projects for secondary and tertiary students with and without ensemble, which have involved a range of the following:

  • providing critical feedback on student pieces

  • undertaking workshops on works-in-progress

  • critiquing, workshopping revised compositions and performing final works [for assessment]

Halcyon is happy to tailor composition projects which incorporate various elements of these models from a short creative weekend to a more extensive project with opportunities for workshopping student pieces.  

For more information see the First Stones project page.

Further seminars could also be tailored for specific works from Halcyon’s repertoire as required. Contact us to start a conversation.

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Halcyon has been the artist in residence at:

  • Halcyon has been artist in residence at:

  • St Andrews Cathedral School, Sydney

  • Sydney Grammar School, Sydney

Halcyon has been a visiting artist at:

  • Melbourne Conservatorium

  • Victorian College of the Arts

  • Sydney Conservatorium

  • University of Central Queensland (Mackay campus)

  • Radford College, Canberra

  • Canberra Girls Grammar School

  • ASME NSW Composition Day


In June 2017, Jenny Duck Chong presented at the ASME Composition day for High School Music Teachers from the perspective of a performer who has commissioned new works and worked closely with Australian Composers. Teachers were thoroughly engaged with her insights. Spicing her talk with examples of work commissioned by Halcyon, Jenny discussed the ways in which performers and composers can collaborate.
— Associate Professor Anne Power, (Vice Chair ASME, NSW)
As well as possessing a highly developed set of technical skills for realizing challenging new music, Jenny and Halcyon always operate from the assumption that every work – whether from an established international figure or a relatively inexperienced early-career composer – demands the same level of care and attention, and has the potential to be a vehicle for a telling expressive statement.
— Elliott Gyger