Mezzo-soprano Jenny Duck-Chong shares the stage with pianist Bernadette Harvey in The Fire In Which We Burn, an all-Australian program presented by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music featuring music by Ross Edwards, Sadie Harrison, Tim Dargaville, Gillian Whitehead and Brad Taylor-Newling. One of the joys of performing and interpreting contemporary works is the opportunity to work alongside the composers and to learn each of their unique ‘languages’ as we prepare their compositions. Each of the works in The Fire In Which We Burn celebrates the insight and accumulated understanding developed by the performers through the long standing relationships that have been forged with each of the featured composers.
Though Delmore Schwarts’ poem points us to the realisation that all our cherished memories are but fleeting and will eventually fade into history while time continues inexorably on, the concert is a celebration both of these rare and timeless moments in our lives and the vast span and ever-turning cycle of time in which they all exist.
Drawing texts from Afghanistan, Japan, Lithuania, Chile and Ancient Israel that span more than 3000 years, Sadie Harrison’s song cycle with what do winter’s summers sing?(2004) encapsulates just this idea. As the piece cycles through the four songs – from Spring to Winter and the joys of love turning to loss – they are threaded together by spontaneous outbursts of joy in the form of three declamatory ‘calling songs’. As Sadie explains: The ‘calling songs’ are a reminder that life continues to flourish despite the passing of individuals. Halcyon brings the Australian premiere of this work to audiences next week.
Ross Edwards’ song cycle, Five Senses: Five Poems of Judith Wright, also draws us into the realm of nature, at times into contemplative moments of stillness, mystery and quiet landscapes and at others into outbursts of jubilation. Premiered by Jenny, Bernadette and Claire Edwardes in 2015 and recently recorded by Jenny, Bernadette and Joshua Hill, it is a great joy to return again to this work in concert.
Gillian Whitehead is a wonderful and prolific composer we have known since the year 2001 when Alison and Jenny were involved in the premiere of Nga Haerenga.
Jenny first worked with Brad Taylor-Newling as a student composer some years ago in a Song Company MODART project and was delighted to reacquaint herself with his music more recently when he wrote a couple of songs for her for a celebration for eminent writer David Malouf.
Tim Dargaville is a Melbourne-based composer, pianist, percussionist, and teacher. Bernadette was a featured performer in a retrospective of his work earlier this year in Melbourne. Here he describes the inspiration for his Kolam series:
Kolam is a ritualistic form of decorative threshold art, drawn on the ground using rice flour at the entrance of a private home…Once drawn, these designs are left to be walked over, for passing insects to eat, and gradually disappear by the end of the day only to be reformed again the next morning.
Tickets: $25/$16. Click here to book.
Image: close up image of a moth’s wing taken by scientist/artist Linden Gledhill.