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Vocal music

Australian music for solo voice

Australia is rightly proud of the singers we have produced over the years but while these include numerous wonderful male singers, it is the divas like Melba and Sutherland who leap more easily to mind. Much of the music composed in early colonial Australia was vocal – various things of Isaac Nathan and William Vincent Wallace, for instance – and there was healthy industry in parlour song and other light music well into the twentieth century.

As an avid collector, Percy Grainger made many arrangements of folk song, including several for voice and piano. Other important composers of solo song in the early twentieth century include Margaret Sutherland, whose settings of John Shaw Nielson and Judith Wright are especially fine, Dorian Le Gallienne, whose choice of texts ranges freely from the Elizabethan period on, and Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

We are lucky to have a number of fine singers who support new work including Merlyn Quaife, Elizabeth Campbell, Jane Edwards and Yvonne Kenny, as well as Lyndon Terracini, Michael C Smith and an encouraging raft of younger singers.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Two songs show this composer’s exquisite craft in setting verse by Kathleen Dalziel and herself.
Woman to man (2004) by Richard Millsis an Australian Frauenliebe und -leben based on poems of Judith Wright.
Hermit of Green Light (1979) by Ross Edwardsa song cycle to the allusive verses of Michael Dransfield.
Eight cabaret songs (1989) by Keith Humbleshows the genuinely witty side of this usually serious composer in verse by a range of poets including Yeats and Auden.
Learning to howl (2001) by Andrew Forda song cycle for soprano, soprano saxophone/clarinet/bass clarinet, harp & percussion to a rich selection of different texts.
Kindled skies (2001) by Gordon Kerrythis work for soprano and orchestra is a tribute to the artistry of singer Merlyn Quaife.
 Liederkreis by Heagney, Rogerthese songs for soprano, mezzo soprano or baritone are set to texts by Graeme William Ellis, after Eichendorff.

Broader categories of Vocal music