HALCYON Celebrating 10 Years
Great Hall, SCEGGS, Darlinghurst
Sydney Morning Herald, September 2008
Reviewed by Harriet Cunningham
ENSEMBLES come and go in the urban jungle of new music, but the vocal group Halcyon has proved itself a stayer. On Saturday night Halcyon's founders, Alison Morgan and Jenny Duck-Chong, demonstrated how with a fabulous 10th birthday concert.
How to No.1: be adventurous. Mounting a performance of George Crumb's Ancient Voices Of Children - complete with mandolin, harp, percussion and a singer with her head in a grand piano - at your very first concert could be considered foolhardy. But they did it then, and they did it again on Saturday night, with the kind of playful flair and well-turned virtuosity which keeps experimentation fun and makes audiences want more.
How to No.2: have good friends. While just two people remain at the heart of Halcyon, they have surrounded themselves with an amazing array of composers and performers over the past decade. The first half of the concert was a tantalising smorgasbord of voices, from the English composer Kerry Andrew's loopy Luna-cy to Edison Denisov's mysterious Archipel Des Songes, performed by fine players from every corner of Sydney's music scene.
How to No. 3: be good. Obvious, but essential. And for this most important point Halcyon do not disappoint. Luciano Berio's Folk Songs, for example, may sound deceptively simple — after all, they're just folk songs, aren't they? — until you realise they were written for the legendary Cathy Berberian, accompanied by a highly artful orchestration. So when Duck-Chong and her classy band take up the challenge and make these songs their own, it is an impressive and hugely enjoyable achievement.
Other standout performances: Jane Sheldon's scarily beautiful top note at the climax of Katy Abbott's Night Thoughts; Alison Morgan's exhilarating and fearless vocalising in an extract from Damien Ricketson's Seven Relics; Duck-Chong's fruity expression in Andrew's Cherry; and the ensemble's performance of Gacela Of The Dead Child, which nearly made me weep.
Can it really be 10 years? The time has flown by.
Happy birthday, Halcyon.
The exotic and quixotic from a man with big ideas