Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace

Deborah in Karijini National Park the Pilbara.

SPONSORED: Deborah Cheetham and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Deborah Cheetham AO, composer and acclaimed Yorta Yorta soprano has written Australia’s first requiem based on the Resistant Wars in South Western Victoria between 1840-1863.

This June, Deborah, who is also the Artistic Director of Short Black Opera, will perform the new work Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace alongside the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the MSO Chorus and the Dhungala Children’s Choir, which will be sung entirely in the ancient dialects of the Gunditjmara people.

Cheetham’s work provides an opportunity for the MSO Chorus, a largely non-Indigenous choir, to learn the major choral piece entirely in the early language, creating a powerful way to engage and enlighten those unfamiliar with the history of the resistance wars.

Audience members will be provided with an English translation of the work to gather a full understanding of the historical significance of the requiem.

The Eumeralla Wars were a series of battles that took place between 1840-1863 between the Gunditjmara clans of South Western Victoria and those who came to dispossess them of their land in the Portland Bay district. The battles where thousands of Indigenous Australians were killed, came to be known through contemporary accounts, including diaries and letters describing the events in detail. The history of the battles fought over the 23 year period have drawn a deafening silence in the 170 years since the last shots rang out and the lived experience of those Gunditjmara who survived.

Deborah Cheetham said the performance will bring into focus a period of Australia’s history that is yet to be fully understood.

“I first walked on the battlefield in 2013. The voices of those lost were so loud that it woke something in me and my immediate response was music. A song. A Requiem. A War Requiem, named in recognition of one of the most brutal resistance wars fought on this continent.’’

“It is my hope that this requiem will help the spirits of those who fell to find a lasting peace and that we, their descendants, might find our way to deeper understanding of the legacy of these battles.’’

“One day I know I will walk on that country and feel no restless spirit – just the strength of two thousand generations of lives lived and culture sustained,” said Deborah.

Joining the performance will be mezzo soprano Linda Barcan, bariton Don Bemrose (Gungarri), Masters students from Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and young talent from Melbourne Youth Orchestras.

Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace recognises the lives lost on both sides of the fighting and allows peace to be declared, amplifying the importance of our nation’s shared history.

The performance celebrates the United Nation’s International Year of Indigenous Languages and the tenth anniversary of Short Black Opera and the Dhungala Children’s Choir. Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace has been made possible with the help of Gunditjmara language custodian Vicki Couzens and linguist Kris Eira. Presented in collaboration with Short Black Opera.

Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace will be performed at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on Saturday 15 June at 7pm. All tickets are $35. For tickets and further information visit mso.com.au

 

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