presented by the New Music Network
artshub, 9 September 2013
Reviewed by Paul Nolan
Two significant 21st century vocal chamber works filled out this compelling program presented by the New Music Network. Acoustics, ambient film and spatial design as well as controlled performances ensured a captivating delivery of texts. Paramount throughout the evening was a fine balance between the quartet of female vocal forces and accompaniments.
Subtleties in the compositions were exquisitely rendered by voices, instrumentalists and narrator. Predicament, isolation and fragile journeys through passion and identity were communicated through a diverse tapestry of tone colours and imagery.
This concert began with a world premiere of Raffaele Marcellino’s newly completed A Strange Kind of Paradise (2013). Cinematically dimmed lights obscured the help of detailed program notes and texts but dramatically shrouded the audience. Billowing sheer drops of fabric flanked the stage. Michael Bates’ projections on and beyond a screen flooded the NIDA Atrium space.
The range of texts in this delicate and deeply descriptive work was effectively shared between the vocal parts, at times in mid sentence or fragment. From this first hearing, repetitions and ornamentation timelessly emphasized the despair of this work’s subject, the mythological Ariadne.
The beautiful harp accompaniment in Marcellino’s work was a suitable support for the voices, especially in the hands of Genevieve Lang Huppert.
In the concert’s second half, the sprawling Gillian Whitehead work Nga Haerenga (2000) extended the concept of journeying and various aspects of isolation and identity.
Vocal sound effects, shifts from solo to ensemble and Tom Llewellyn-Jones’ resonating delivery of diary excerpts from Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton enhanced the assorted inspirations behind the piece.
This work’s huge battery of percussion instruments was an incredible texture beneath all types of vocal expression. This busy score was brought to breathtaking life by percussionist Claire Edwards.
In both works, the contrasting timbres from sopranos Allison Morgan and Belinda Montgomery with mezzo sopranos Jenny Duck-Chong and Jo Burton were finely blended and communicated both works with chilling clarity.
On this election night, Halcyon refreshingly maintained its worthwhile agenda of introducing Australians to recent vocal compositions – journeying through multi-faceted works with film projections enhancing a myriad of emotions and sonic events.
The review was originally published at artshub here