Aunty Deborah Cheetham (Yorta Yorta)
Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Cheetham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for “distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance”.
In 2009, Deborah Cheetham established Short Black Opera as a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. The following year she produced the premiere of her first opera Pecan Summer. This landmark work was Australia’s first Indigenous opera and has been a vehicle for the development of a new generation of Indigenous opera singers.
In March 2015 she was inducted onto the Honour Roll of Women in Victoria and in April 2018 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia for her pioneering work and achievements in the music.
Ms Cheetham’s Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, premiered to sold out audiences on-country at the Port Fairy Spring Festival in October 2018 and at Hamer Hall in Melbourne with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on June 15, 2019.
Deborah Cheetham’s list of commissions for major Australian ensembles including works for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australia String Quartet, West Australian Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, Rubiks Collective, The Sydney Philharmonia, Plexus Collective, the Goldner Quartet and Flinders Quartet.
In 2019 Deborah Cheetham established the One Day in January project designed to develop and nurture Indigenous orchestral musicians. In this same year she received the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for service to music in Australia, the Merlyn Myer Prize for Composition and was inducted onto the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.
Deborah Cheetham has been named the 2020 Composer-in-residence for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and begins her appointment at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University as Professor of Australia Music practice.
Deborah is the 2019 winner of the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Music and was named Limelight Magazine’s Artist of the Year for 2019.
In 2020 Deborah describes herself as a “21st century urban woman who is Yorta Yorta by birth, stolen generation by policy, soprano by diligence, composer by necessity and lesbian by practice.”
+ Pecan Summer, Yorta Yorta and English. Australia’s first Aboriginal opera. On-country premiere 2010
+ Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace. Large scale work for soloists, choirs and orchestra. Sung in the language of the Gunditjmara people. Australia’s first resistance-war commemoration for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal performers. On-country premiere October 14, 2019 Port Fairy Spring Festival.
+ MPavilion Acknowledgment to Country Series, Boon Wurrung language. Commission for the Naomi Milgrom Foundation to inaugurate a summer cycle of cross art-form programming. Since 2014 (continuing)
+ Dhungala Choral Connection Song Book, various languages
+ Ancient Land Processional, Kaurna, Boandik and Barngarla languages. Commission for the University of South Australia. Recorded by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra 2018
+ Woven Song Embassy Tapestry Series. Singapore, Dehli, Tokyo, Paris, Rome, The Holy See, Washington, Dublin, Beijing
+ Beneath the Wings of Bunjil. Commission for the City of Casey 2018 opening of Bunjil Place.
+ Tarami Nulay, Gadigal and English. Commission for St Andrews Cathedral School 2017
+ Eternal Birrarung. Commission for the City of Melbourne upon the restoration of the Federation Bells 2013
+ Dali Mana Gamarada, Gadigal language. Commission for the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.