Kingfisher: Songs for Halcyon

Review by Vincent Plush, The Australian, February 2016

CD review

Kingfisher: Songs for Halcyon
Tall Poppies
4.5/5 stars

The word halcyon conjures up diverse meanings. Traditionally, the halcyon days are those we remember as our best. In ornithology, the word denotes a genus of kingfishers. In Greek mythology, that fabled bird calmed the winds and waves while nesting on the sea during the calm week of the winter solstice.

No doubt all these meanings were in the minds of Sydney-based singers Jenny Duck-Chong and Alison Morgan when they formed vocal-based chamber group Halcyon 15 years ago to propagate the work of emerging and established Australian composers.

This album celebrates those glistening years, with 21 composers (six of them women, a special consideration of Halcyon’s programming) contributing short pieces, none more than six minutes long, all of them premiere recordings. The two female voices (Duck-Chong and Morgan) are front and centre of most tracks; on several occasions they are joined by an ensemble of flutes (Laura Chislett Jones), clarinets (Jason Noble), cello (Geoffrey Gartner) and percussion (William Jackson and Joshua Hill). All pieces were written or rearranged primarily for the female voices and the composers have responded with little gems that caress the ear in beauteous, rhapsodic and reflective sounds.

The recording sound is mellifluous and lucid, the liner notes comprehensive. In a sense, this is a beguiling sampler of recent Australian music and a testament to 15 years of Halcyon music-making.

Vincent Plush

This review appeared in The Australian on 20/2/16