In June 2024 The Song Company tour Peter Sculthorpe’s The Stars Turn (1979) in a version for unaccompanied voices by David Matthews. Their programme, named for Sculthorpe’s work and taking in the musical milestones of their career, first appears at the University of Newcastle on 14 June before visiting Wollongong, Sydney, and Canberra. Their tour concludes on 4 July in Hobart, Tasmania – full details here. The Song Company previously toured The Stars Turn in September 2016.

Matthews’ arrangement uses mellow vocal colours: the chorus is made up of double alto and baritone parts, with no soprano voices, alongside tenor and bass. The accompanying voices hum or vocalise wordlessly on a gently rocking figure, as the lilting melody is passed around the ensemble, intoning Tony Morphett’s awestruck lyrics – “the stars turn, the sun turns, the earth turns”- on the vastness of sea and heavens. It closes with a tender shush from the choir.

The Stars Turn is taken from the fourth part of the composer’s Love 200, for rock band and orchestra, composed in 1970 for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and psychedelic prog-rock group Tully, and first performed at the ABC Promenade Series in February 1970; Love 200, with words by Morphett, was commissioned to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay. The Stars Turn also exists in versions for soprano, clarinet and piano, soprano, cello and piano, string orchestra, and high voice and piano.

Matthews created the arrangement for Sculthorpe’s 50th birthday in 1979; it was first performed by the Leonine Consort at Musica Viva Australia. Sculthorpe was a formative influence on Matthews, helping him discover his compositional voice in the 1970s. They would subsequently collaborate on three film scores, as well as with guitarist John Williams on  Cantares (1979), a piece for several guitars - electric and acoustic - and string quartet that follows the pattern of the Latin Mass. Matthews recalls his relationship with Sculthorpe here.