Alice Chance

Composer of music, words and installations

Composition Portfolio 2018

Hi there, this webpage is my composition portfolio for Semester 1, 2018: my final semester of Honours at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This portfolio features four new works created during the semester under the tuition of Dr Paul Stanhope. Scroll away!


What I've been up to

Before we get started, here are some examples of compositional projects I've been working on this semester in addition to the works submitted in this portfolio.

Audience Choir

I created an interactive mixed media piece for audience, their phones, and accordion. I devised a Sonic Identity Quiz which members of the audience could take, unlocking one of sixteen sound files to contribute to the soundscape. The performance involved me teaching the audience simple, canonic melodies and them singing back to me amongst an evolving soundscape.



I am the vocal arranger and music director for a new musical entitled Fangirls, written by Yve Blake. In March this year, we were invited to give a showcase at the Women of the World Festival at Southbank Centre in London. On June 16th, we gave a 90-minute public showcase of an abridged version of the work at Adelaide Cabaret Festival. I taught and conducted an ensemble of six lead singers and five backing singers to perform my vocal arrangements for this work. The accompaniment is all electronic (pop) music and part of my role was to cue all the files.


Music in this stillness

In April and May this year, a series of concerts at the Art Gallery of NSW featured a new work of mine. New works were commissioned by the gallery to celebrate the exhibition of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, on loan from the Musée de Cluny in Paris. Works were scored for Renaissance instruments, including the portative organ. This was in honour of the portative organ depicted in the tapestry dedicated to sound. I also performed in some of the pieces, including my own, alongside Josie and the Emeralds.


Okay, now it's time for my four specific works.


Overview of Portfolio Works

1. Aurora Eora (SATB Version)

2. Holy Dreaming

  • SATB (divisi) + Solo SATB a cappella work
  • Text by Rev. Lenore Parker, the first Australian Aboriginal person to be ordained in the Anglican Church.
  • Commissioned by Chris Watson and Trinity College, Melbourne for the Choir of Trinity College 2018
  • Premiere performances as part of July 2018 European Tour in venues which include: Montpellier Cathedral in France, St Paul's Cathedral in London, and Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford.
  • LP to be recorded in Oxford, July 2018 featuring Holy Dreaming alongside Ross Edwards' Missa Alchera. 

3. Every Valley

  • Scored for three-part Alto section, Sax Quartet, Piano, Percussion, and String Octet.
  • Commissioned by the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus as part of Messiah Reimagined, June 2018
  • Premiered amongst new works by 16 other Australian Composers including Elena Kats-Chernin, Paul Stanhope, Lyle Chan, and Gerard Brophy

4. Voices in the trochus Shell

  • Commissioned by Gondwana Indigenous Children's Choir, March 2018
  • Traditional Murray Island songs transcribed and harmonised with permission from Kay and Noel Zaro
  • Some songs are accompanied by a traditional dance
  • These harmonisations were workshopped with the choir, in consultation with Kay and Noel Zaro in Cairns, May 2018
  • The whole suite, which will soon include an entirely original work responding to these songs, will be premiered in Cairns in October, 2018 with string quartet accompaniment performed by the ACO Inspire Quartet


1. Aurora Eora (SATB VERSION)

for satb choir (divisi) a cappella


Commissioned by Sydney Children’s Choir and Barangaroo Delivery Authority for Sydney Children’s Choir

Arrangement commissioned by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs for VOX


Aurora Eora reveres the history of Australia’s first nations people of the Eora Nation. Marrying the two words ‘Aurora’, Latin for dawn, and ‘Eora’ the Gadigal word meaning ‘of this place’, I’m seeking to honour the Gadigal clan and all twenty eight other clans whose people have been and continue to be the cultural custodians of the land in Sydney and the greater Sydney area, respectively. In the same way that the sun does and always will rise, they are the dawn of this place.


Please note, I have made some slight updates to the score after the premiere performance, the most significant being a nod to the aleatoric material from earlier in the work at the conclusion of the piece, allowing some magic dust to hang in the air.


2. Holy Dreaming

For SATB Choir (DIVISI) + Solo SATB a cappella


Commissioned by Chris Watson and Trinity College, Melbourne for the Choir of Trinity College.


Holy Dreaming is the result of being asked to write a musical companion for Ross Edwards’ Mass of the Dreaming: Missa Alchera. Ross Edwards’ music has been hugely formational for my own artistic voice, having provided inspiration and sanctuary for me ever since my teen years. Creating something worthy of companionship with the Edwards Mass, simultaneously honouring it and bringing forth something original, has been a lofty summit to scale. Holy Dreaming has come about through my deep meditation on the words of A Thanksgiving for Australia by Reverend Lenore Parker, examining them, turning them over, and searching for the natural dances within words and phrases. I feel I’ve composed a duet between my own music and the inherent music I’ve heard within the text.


Please note, the choir were unable to supply a rehearsal recording so a MIDI piano rendition has been supplied.


3. Every Valley

For three-part Alto voice section, Saxophone quartet, piano, percussion, and string Octet

Commissioned by Leichhardt Espresso Chorus for Messiah Reimagined. More information about the concert available in the program.

The Ev'ry Valley movement from G.F. Handel's Messiah, beloved by Tenors the world over, has inspired my composition Every Valley. The original is famous for its overt word-painting. The music leaps and plummets as led by the contours of the landscape it describes. Ostentatious, dexterous melismas inspire awe at the power and the glory of God. Many performers of this work seem to exude a desire for the audience’s awe to be directed at their own power and glory instead.

I have created a poetic and musical response to this movement. The original biblical text uses 'exalted' in its archaic literal meaning: 'raised up'. The verses speak of how God will eventually smooth out the Earth. A common misinterpretation is that 'exalted' means 'praised' in this context, implying that all of God's landscape should be praised. I have used this misconception as a springboard into a poetic and musical ode to accepting and loving things as they are. I am seeking to honour the diverse landscapes of human bodies, as well as the efforts of their occupants.


4. Voices in the Trochus Shell

Currently for three-part Treble choir a cappella

Voices in the Trochus Shell is a suite of four traditional songs from Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. These songs were taught to myself and Lyn Williams in Cairns, March 2018 by Kay and Noel Zaro who run Gerib Sik Torres Strait Islanders Corporation. 

As part of this portfolio, I have included the original recordings of each song as performed by Kay and Noel, as well as recordings of the choristers singing my harmonisations. Or, in places where choristers have not learned them yet, a multitrack recording of me singing my arrangement.

The Zaros have been extremely enthusiastic throughout the whole process so far. At first, I asked how liberal I could be with the types of harmony I use, to which they responded "use whatever chords you think sound good"! When I asked if there was a way I could do this and be wrong, the assured me not. However, in workshops, there were some things I had written which did indeed sound wrong to them, and they were able to assist in finding more appropriate sonorities.

Gerib Sik with Gondwana Indigenous Children's Choir Choristers

Gerib Sik with Gondwana Indigenous Children's Choir Choristers

This work is unique amongst all the others in this portfolio because it is still in progress. I have included it as an insight into the work done so far and the process of how it has come to this point and what is still to come. Something I have learned is that when you're creating a work grounded in First Nations culture, you can't be in a hurry. It is extremely important to take the time to go about things properly. This often involves speaking to the right people and keeping those people in the loop at every stage of your process. It involves inviting and taking on board their feedback, even if it is sometimes challenging to understand or at odds with your own musical context. Gondwana have this understanding and have allowed several months for this work to take shape. Currently, I am in the process of arranging string quartet accompaniment to these pieces as well as composing a new work in response to the Mer (Murray Island) songs. 


Ki Keriba

A song about working as divers off a lugger boat, the south-east wind is blowing strong, and the boat 'Helen' is rocking side to side like a pig walking. Below is the original recording of Kay and Noel performing this song.

Below is my arrangement sung by the choristers.



This song is about playing tug of war, the rope snaps and you tie it back up in the middle and start again. "Oi-sa, oi-sa" can be likened to "Ready? Set?" The game begins on "mm".

Below is the original recording of Kay and Noel performing this song.

Below is my arrangement sung by the choristers.


Kara Kara neur

Translating to "my dearest girl", this song is from the perspective of someone missing their sweetheart, thinking of them at sunset.

Below is the original recording of Kay and Noel performing this song.

Below is my arrangement sung by choristers.


E Cumma

E Cumma is a celebratory song without a translatable meaning. Kay remarked that the text has a religious meaning to her Samoan friend. This song is still very much part of Torres Strait culture. 

Below is the original recording of Kay and Noel performing this song.

Below is my first draft arrangement of the harmonies in this song, multi-tracked with my voice.


Part of my work for this project has also been to create a fictional plot which could bind all these songs together and become a children's picture book. I wrote this story in consultation with Kay and Noel and at the camp where we workshopped these songs, choristers drew images inspired by the story to become the images for the book.

The story revolves around a young man named Gomi, who leaves Mer to go diving for trochus shells on Op Nor (The Great Barrier Reef). He and his fellow divers sing as they travel there in their boat (Ki Keriba). After diving down to pick up these shells, Gomi resurfaces and listens inside them, hearing musical memories and the voices of his ancestors.

Chorister Artwork

Chorister Artwork

The first shell sings to him of his happy childhood, playing tug of war (Naubuagatare), the second sings of the sadness in having to say goodbye to his sweetheart Genua (Kara Kara Neur), and the third sings of the happy day when his mother ate his first caught fish, as is tradition, and everyone from his village sang in celebration (E Cumma).

Chorister artwork

Chorister artwork

He returns to the boat, excited to tell his fellow divers about the voices in the trochus shells. But when he offers the shells to his friends, they reply, with cheeky glints in their eyes, that they can't hear a thing. Gomi has a feeling they can, they all can, and that they should indeed keep this a secret. Inside every shell is a memory, you just need to listen. 



Okay that's all from me, I hope you've enjoyed my portfolio.

- Alice Chance, June 2018