Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace

Proudly presented by The University of Queensland’s School of Music in partnership with Short Black Opera, as part of the UQ Vice-Chancellor’s Concert Series.

Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace

Sun 20 Oct 2019 2:00pm3:30pm


Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Corner of Grey and Melbourne Streets
South Bank, Brisbane
Concert Hall
Artwork by Gunditjmara Yorta Yorta Artist Tom Day
Artwork by Gunditjmara Yorta Yorta Artist Tom Day

Tickets now available 


Composer Deborah Cheetham AO has created this work “to amplify the importance of our nation’s shared history”. Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace powerfully responds to the story of conflict and loss associated with one of the most brutal resistance wars fought on this continent. This is choral and symphonic music on a grand scale and is designed to lead audience and performers alike towards a long overdue declaration of peace.

Sung entirely in the ancient dialects of the Gunditjmara people, Eumeralla expands on the structure of the traditional Requiem Mass bringing together considerable forces to unite in the telling of this history. The concert will feature Yorta Yorta Soprano Deborah Cheetham AO, Gungarri Baritone Don Bemrose and Mezzo Soprano Talia Garrett-Benson as soloists, UQ Symphony Orchestra, UQ Chorale, Dhungala Children's Choir, and Voices of Birralee.

"The name Eumeralla is unlikely to be among the theatres of war that you could name. The history of battles fought and the lives that were lost is almost unknown to anyone outside the Aboriginal community. It is more than 170 years since the last shots rang out in the country of the Gunditjmara but the land is not silent. The voices of those who lost their lives in defence of their country ring in your ears when you stand amongst the lava flow of south west country of Victoria. Unlike other theatres of war such as Anzac Cove and the Somme, where peace was declared and relationships restored with the Turks and Germans, no such peace was declared in the resistance wars, no such restoration. Whilst the Gunditjmara uphold the memory of their warriors slain, most Australians have been denied access to this history and denied resolution - and so the land remains haunted. Eumeralla was written in recognition of one of the most brutal resistance wars fought on this continent and is designed for non-Indigenous Choirs to perform along-side Indigenous musicians. It is my hope that this war requiem will help the spirits of those who fell - those who resisted and their aggressors, to find a lasting peace and that we their descendants might find our way to deeper understanding of the legacy of these battles."

The translation of this work has been made possible with the help of Gunditjmara language custodian Vicki Couzens and linguist Kris Eira. Proudly presented by The University of Queensland’s School of Music in partnership with Short Black Opera, in association with QPAC, and with support from Alumni Friends of UQ. 



Deborah Cheetham AO

Deborah Cheetham AODeborah 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.

2018 included an impressive schedule of performances in Australia and internationally, beginning with a sold out season of Milnjiya - Milky Way River of Stars for the Perth International Arts Festival; Tokyo for Australia Now; performances of Songs of Belonging in Singapore at the Esplanade Theatre and in Sydney at the City Recital Hall. Ms Cheetham’s latest work Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace premiered to a sold out audience 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.

In 2019 Deborah Cheetham received the Merlyn Myer Prize for Composition and was awarded the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for service to music in Australia.

Cheetham’s list of commissions for major Australian ensembles continues to grow including works for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australia String Quartet, West Australian Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, Rubiks Collective, Plexus Ensemble, Flinders Quartet and the Goldner Quartet.

Don Bemrose

Don Bemrose is a Gungarri baritone who made his operatic debut with Short Black Opera in 2010 creating the role of James in Deborah Cheetham’s landmark opera Pecan Summer. Don reprised this role in 2011 and was the baritone soloist for the on-country premiere of Cheetham’s Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace.

Don has performed with major companies and productions around the country most notably; From a Black Sky for The Street Theatre (ACT) 2013 and in the role Bob Crab for the world premiere of, Cloudstreet for State Opera of South Australia. In 2012 Don made his debut with Opera Australia in the chorus of Turandot and on tour with Oz Opera in the role of Papageno in an adaptation Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Don graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2011 from the Victorian College of Arts, University of Melbourne and has forged a career in the education of Indigenous children.


Dhungala Children's Choir

Dhungala Children's Choir (DCC) was formed in 2009 by Deborah Cheetham AO and has become the peak choral performance group for Indigenous children in Victoria and Northern NSW.

Members of DCC have performed around Australia with Short Black Opera Company in performances of Deborah Cheetham's Pecan Summer and come together annually in Melbourne for Dhungala Choral Connection—a three day choral camp designed to reform traditional song lines between the many language groups represented within the choir.

Children enter DCC via Short Black Opera's regional engagement program Short Black Opera for Kids. This program provides training in musicianship, stagecraft, song writing and performance skills to children aged 8 to 12 inspiring excellence, leadership and confidence.


The University of Queensland Symphony Orchestra | conducted by Warwick Potter

The University of Queensland Chorale | conducted by Graeme Morton

Deborah Cheetham AO | Soprano soloist 

Don Bemrose | Baritone soloist 

Talia Garrett-Benson | Mezzo-soprano soloist