Australian Series: Return

Curated by Deborah Cheetham, the 2021 Australian Series explores what it means to Return, in all its complexity and hope:  to Canberra, to the concert hall, to each other and to the narrative of Australian identity, through the lens of composers inspired by this ancient land.


I could not see beyond until I looked up and remembered, the sky is mine and yours and ours. No matter what, while we breathe and perhaps beyond breath, we share the sky.

Deborah Cheetham

Thursday 8 April 2021, 6.30pm, National Museum of Australia
Jessica Cottis Conductor
Deborah Cheetham AO Soprano
CSO Chamber Players

Brenda GIFFORD Miriwa (Sky)
Peggy POLIAS The Moon
Deborah CHEETHAM AO Song for Dulka Warngiid
Moya HENDERSON AM World premiere, CSO commission

The first concert in the 2021 Australian Series opens with Brenda Gifford’s Miriwa (Sky), a contemplation of the vast canopy spoken in the ancient beauty of the Yuin language.

This is followed by The Moon by Peggy Polias, which charts an enigmatic course across the night sky, from new moon to waning crescent.

The program also features Deborah Cheetham’s Song for Dulka Warngiid, the fourth work in the composer’s Woven Song series. Inspired by the painting and tapestry of the same name and sung in the language of the Kayaldild people, the work transports us to the tiny Bentinck Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

This concert culminates in a world premiere from Moya Henderson, a composer devoted to exploring the soul and culture of Australia’s 60,000-year history.


I searched within to find a way to survive without. I saw all that was without and sought to hold it within.

Deborah Cheetham

Thursday 22 July 2021, 6.30pm, National Museum of Australia
Lorina Gore Soprano
CSO Chamber Players

Moya HENDERSON AM Kudikynah Cave
Peggy POLIAS World premiere, CSO commission
Ella MACENS World premiere, CSO commission
Paul DEAN Amid a crowd of stars

Within and Without brings together five unique Australian voices: composers Moya Henderson, Ella Macens, Peggy Polias and Paul Dean and soprano Lorina Gore, CSO Artist in Focus for 2021.

The opening work is Henderson’s Kudikynah Cave, where the composer forged a connection that would drive her passion for the longest continuing music practice in the world.

The concert features world premieres from Ella Macens and Peggy Polias: Macens’ works vibrantly blend elements of popular and classical music with influences from her Latvian heritage, while Polias entices listeners to journey together through time and nature.

The program closes with Dean’s Amid a crowd of stars. Originally written in 2004, the composer has reimagined the work for this Australian Series and found new resonance and depth.


Deep within the darkest hour of uncertainty, hope takes hold. Our hearts are liberated and our imaginations soar; we can dream, we can roam free and together we can reclaim the night.

Deborah Cheetham

Thursday 18 November 2021, 6.30pm, National Museum of Australia

Nat BARTSCH Into the Light
Leanne BEAR Nôtre Gothique
Brenda GIFFORD World premiere, PLEXUS commission
Sally GREENAWAY Quietude

In this closing concert of the 2021 Australian Series, we welcome guest ensemble PLEXUS. Driven by Monica Curro (violin), Philip Arkinstall (clarinet) and Stefan Cassomenos (piano), PLEXUS collaborates with Australian and international filmmakers, actors, directors, poets, choirs and visual artists as well as guest instrumentalists and vocalists. Since 2014, the collective has commissioned over 100 new works, including tonight’s world premiere from Brenda Gifford.

The program opens with Into the Light by Nat Bartsch, brimming with all the anticipation of a joyful departure into the unknown.

From there, Leanne Bear bids us recall, almost violently, the image of Notre Dame ablaze. The composer’s Nôtre Gothique offers, in her words, “musical pillars of chords…the violin and clarinet danc[ing] together in a diabolical duet with the noble piano.”

Series curator Deborah Cheetham offers one of her own works, INSIEME – YAPENEYEPUK – TOGETHER, which asks the question: What will it take to bring us together?

The program closes with Sally Greenaway’s Quietude, which evokes both the dark destruction of the battlefield and the fragile but tenacious hope that rises from it.

Image: Deborah Cheetham AO, by Wayne Quilliam

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