Category Archives: Choral Vocal Dramatic

“Heartland” performance


This Saturday, 7 July, my work Heartland will be performed by the Sydney Philharmonia Choir at the Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The conductor is Brett Weymark.

Written for massed choir and two pianos, Heartland explores various ideas of “home”. At the rehearsal on Wednesday it was sounding really good, with the choir suitably energetic and the pianists right on track. Interestingly, the Sydney Philharmonia are doing the original, “full” version of the piece before it was revised, and it was great to hear some musical material that was excised before the other previous performances of the work.

It is a fun piece (in my opinion), and leads me to wonder why some people believe notions of high art and fun are mutually exclusive.

Velvet Dreams (2000)

for SATB choir and orchestra (Faber Music publishing details including online score preview)

also available in a version for SATB and piano

duration: 6 minutes

Audio Excerpt from the NSW Schools combined choirs and orchestra, 2000

Programme Notes

During a period of correspondence with the reclusive Australian violist-turned-truck-driver Jock Reby, my attention was directed towards a notepad of graffiti that Reby had transcribed from the toilet walls of an English Language School in Bangkok. It seems that the students of the school had used the practice of writing on toilet walls as a means of experimenting with their English.

Consequently, it contained some quite bizarre interpretations of the English Language. One piece of writing referred incessantly to “velvet dreams”, and their relationship to the writer’s missing (romantic) partner. Despite the often-unclear nature much of the text (what exactly is a “velvet dream”?), it was evident that the author felt very strongly about the subject.

This work for choir and orchestra has therefore utilised fragments of the so-called “Velvet Dreams” text, together with some extra texts written in a similar style by myself and the contemporary poet Sarah Hindson.

notes by Matthew Hindson.

CD Recording Available?


Other Information

Heartland (2001)

for SATB choir and two pianos

duration: 20 minutes

Faber Music publishing details

Audio Excerpts

first movement:

third movement:

Programme Notes

introduction: Home

(text by LF)

i. Stand Up

(text by Sappho)

ii. A Thing of Beauty

(text by Keats)

iii. Did you miss me?

(text by Rosetti, Shelley and Gordon)

Programme Notes

Commissioned by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir for the 1st Australiasian Choral Festival, with financial assistance from the Australia Council, the commonwealth government’s Arts funding and advisory body.

Heartland is a work that was especially commissioned by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian choir for first performance on 15th April 2001, as part of a festival of combined Gay and Lesbian choirs from throughout Australia and New Zealand.

There are a variety of texts that have been chosen for this piece. The title “Heartland” suggests a place to which you feel a great sense of attachment, as well where you most feel safe and secure – a ‘home’.

The introductory movement to this piece most literally details this sense of belonging, with a text by L.F. slowly incanted over an ever-shifting semi-improvisatory choral part.

In contrast to this often-amorphous treatment, the next movement is declamatory, almost a call-to-arms. “Stand up and look at me, face to face, friend to friend”, Sappho commands, though also implores “unfurl the loveliness in your eyes” and a tender “for you I will leave behind all that I love”. A heartland need not be a place of exclusive happiness, it can also be a place where life’s hardships and tribulations may have been encountered, such as watching the slow loss of a loved one.

The middle movement of this work uses texts by Keats and the Book of Ruth to portray this sense of “heartland”. However, it is often the sense of unabashed joy that may be associated most strongly with a a heartland.

The final movement certainly aims to portray that mood, using as its foundation a somewhat over-the-top text written by Christina Rosetti in 1859, as well as poems by Shelley and Adam Lindsay Gordon.

notes by Matthew Hindson.


“A splendid collection of new, or at least newish, Australian, British and American vocal works was performed by the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers and Symphony Chorus in the Verbrugghen Hall of the Sydney Conservatorium on Saturday, July 7… while nothing was without interest, its most rewarding meat lay in pieces by two Australian composers…

“Matthew Hindson’s Heartland… concluded the concert. This piece is a dazzlingly virtuosic setting of an eclectic lot of texts ranging from the Biblical Book of Ruth to Keats, Shelley, Sappho, Adam Gordon and Christina Rossetti, and was a new experience for me – both because I had not encountered it before… and for the significantly more mature intensity and flavour of Hindson’s muse than I had met previously. Without losing intermittent traces of the larrikinism which was such a prominent ingredient of his earlier compositions, Hindson has begun to delve much further into the vast domain of the human heart and soul.

David Gyger, Opera-Opera, pp. 356.22 – 356.23, August 2007.” .

CD Recording Available?

Not yet. However, a live recording of the piece is available through the Australian Music Centre library.

Other Information

Most recently performed by the Sydney Philharmonia Choir at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, July 2007.  The final movement was performed by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir in 2011.

Insect Songs (1998)

for mezzo-soprano and guitar

duration: 11 minutes

Faber Music publishing details

Audio Recording

Recording of the second movement, “Cicadas at Night” by Jenny Duck-Chong (mezzo), Vladimir Gorbach (guitar)

Programme Notes

Insects have been a fertile source of inspiration to some Australian composers, in particular Ross Edwards who has used the patterns of insect sounds within his compositions.

The two Insect Songs by Matthew Hindson take as their basis separate poems by Australian poets as their starting points.

The first movement, “Ants in the Shower Recess” (poem by Jamie Grant), takes many cues from the text on which it is based. Ants are described as “tiny, black-skinned warriors” who seem to be indestructible. Indeed, the point of the poem is that ants will be around much longer than the poet (or the composer).

The second song, “Cicadas at Night” (poem by Peter Skryznecki), parallels the life cycle of a cicada, emerging from their seven-year stage as a wriggling, squirming pupae to spend their brief above-ground life singing and reproducing.

Both song-settings utilize aspects of word painting, especially with the guitar writing. The sounds of scurrying ants and incessant cicadas are portrayed throughout the relevant songs. They are dominantly lyrical works, though rhythmically quite challenging for the performers.

Insect Songs were commissioned by Jeannie Marsh and Ken Murray, with financial assistance from the Australia Council.

notes by Matthew Hindson.

Other Information

Australian Music Centre page on this work

Pi (1999)

for SATB choir and orchestra

also available in a version for SATB, piano and 3 percussion

also available in a version for SATB and piano

duration: 10 minutes

Audio Excerpt

Programme Notes

Pi was written as a commission from the Australian Society of Music Educators for their conference held in July 1999. It is a work that explores There is a history of using numbers to write music that dates as least as far back to Pythagoras. J. S. Bach encoded many mathematical structures within his compositions, and the ground-breaking work of Olivier Messiaen in “Modes de valeurs et intensites” in which he applied numerical concepts to every part of a piece of music (e.g. the pitches, the rhythms, the different dynamics, how each note was to be played (short, long etc.)) had a profound effect on the way musical composition was developed over the last fifty years.

Pi, however, to a large extent focuses on two poets’ responses to the number pi, rather than focussing on the properties of the number itself. Peter Goldsworthy’s poem deals with the fact that the number pi cannot be precisely defined. Mathematicians have defined the number to at least 1,000,000 decimal places (and there are books such as “The Joy of Pi” in which you can see all of these numbers!) and yet we still can’t exactly say what the number is. To Goldsworthy, this undefinability leads to the number being something mystical, “finer than us, more durable than matter”. It is a tender poem, full of reverence for the number. The musical setting of this poem follows a similar path. Sarah Hindson’s poem of the same name uses Pi as an analogy to relate to more “human” issues. Just as we search “for answers beyond human capacity”, i.e., we will never know the precise numerical definition of pi, so we quest for an answer to our own problems in daily interpersonal life. It is a vibrant, yet concise poem that receives a rhythmic, up-tempo treatment in this piece.

notes by Matthew Hindson.

CD Recording Available?

      Not yet. However, a live recording of the piece is available through the

Australian Music Centre library




      , the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter, was the inspiration for two poems which Matthew Hindson has set to music… Peter Goldsworthy’s

In the Sky There is a Heaven

      [sic] is full of reverence for this number, which, the poet writes, is “finer than us, more durable than matter”. Here, wowing tam-tams, a loud flourish from the brass, and drum rolls greeted the 150-strong WA Symphony Youth Choir. Meticulously prepared by Prue Ashurst, this ensemble passed the acid test – almost every word was audible in a serenely pastoral setting that makes a graceful obeisance to the English choral tradition in general and the music of Vaughan Williams in particular. In the more robustly empathic setting of Sarah Hindson’s

Logic Without Definition

      [sic], diction was less clear against an often overly-strident backing which, however, quietened down to a much calmer close.” –

Neville Cohn, The West Australian, 26 June 2000.

Other Information