Review by Harriet Cunningham, Sydney Morning Herald March 2014
Kingfisher: Composers come to Halcyon's party but the audience gets the presents
Soprano Alison Morgan and mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong founded Halcyon in 1999 to go where other singers fear to tread, into the beautiful weirdness of exploratory new music. Now 15 years on, it's time to reflect on this many-hued bird.
Halcyon is a creative powerhouse for Australian (and international) new music. In particular, the past five years have seen it champion emerging composers, through performances, commissions and mentor programs.
But for its 15th birthday Halcyon has turned to older friends - composers who have been with them from the start - to compile an exquisite collection of 21 new works.
This performance featured 10 of these four-minute offerings. Andrew Ford's To My Excellent Lucasia, on our Friendship was a thoughtful scene-setter that pulled no punches in its technical demands of the singers. There was a spooky night scene from Jane Stanley, a watery blend of alto flute and voice from Dan Walker, and a flamboyant micro-drama from Graham Hair's All About Anna.
Nigel Butterley, Gordon Kerry and Andrew Schultz all demonstrated just how good they are at organising sounds and words: Butterley's gorgeous Nature Changes at the Speed of Life limited its palette to cello and soprano, while Kerry's Music wove voices and instruments together in an almost orchestral mesh of textures.
A highlight was Gillian Whitehead's setting of two poems from Dunedin artist and writer Claire Beynon. To create such a delicate arc of meaning, amplifying and reflecting on the words at every turn, shows great skill. To do it in just four minutes is mastery indeed.
The Kingfisher Project is an inspired and pragmatic approach to broadening the Australian repertoire for singer and chamber ensemble: 21 eminently do-able short works which, combined together, represent a major review of Australian vocal writing.
The review was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald online here