Synergy, Ensemble Offspring and Halcyon

City Recital Hall, Angel Place

Sydney Morning Herald, September 2007
Reviewed by Harriet Cunningham

Familiar stage feels the shock of the new

As the conductor Roland Peelman pointed out, the City Recital Hall rarely plays host to a concert consisting entirely of new music. Baroque, yes; classical, of course; but cutting-edge, experimental, out-there weirdness? No. So it was with some sense of triumph that the combined forces of Ensemble Offspring, Halcyon and Synergy Percussion took the stage for their opening work, No More than Liquid, composed this year by the Sydneysider Damien Ricketson.

Ricketson has a reputation for intelligent and inventive music-making and this work was no exception. Ravel's Jeux d'eau was the first tag for a series of watery references, slipping in and out of the nicely layered gestures like a knowing wink. Although the work was not one of Ricketson's most consistently accomplished, the ensemble found their way through the shallows and depths with conviction.

The two vocal works following were rare treats: a hopelessly impractical set of miniatures from Gyorgy Ligeti, and an extended love song from Claude Vivier. Sippal, Dobbal, Nadihegeduvel (With pipes, drums and fiddles) is a setting of poems by Sandor Weores, scored for voice, a miscellany of blown instruments and pretty much every percussive instrument you could think of. It was definitely worth the effort. Jenny Duck-Chong took on the acrobatics of the vocal part with a gleam in her eye and a glow in her voice, while the ensemble hit, blew and scraped with well-disciplined enthusiasm.

Vivier's Bouchara was less immediately rewarding, the ecstasy of love getting lost in the agony of sustaining the long phrases.

Steve Reich's Tehillim was top of the bill, and only a collaboration of this sort, between multiple new music groups, could have realised this elaborate and thrilling work.

The four voices of Halcyon drove the work on with endless energy while Ensemble Offspring and Synergy Percussion kept up brilliantly. Central to the whole shebang was Peelman, who bobbed and weaved his way through the complex rhythmics like a 21st-century Fred Astaire.

All three groups should be congratulated for an inspiring collaboration. This concert is repeated on Saturday at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. Copyright © 2007. The Sydney Morning Herald.