Sharing my thoughts about this Australian Series feels more like writing a love letter than a program note. It’s more intimate than a simple description of things to come; I feel like taking liberties, as one does with a longtime friend.
There is love for you, the audience, and for the musicians who will present each program. But the deepest level of intimacy is reserved for the composers, those whose creative endeavours have captured so eloquently, so vibrantly and so honestly the narrative of our lives in both time and place through the beauty and immediacy of music.
The word Return came to me early on as I began my relationship with this series. I would return to Canberra. You would return as our audience. The Canberra Symphony Orchestra would return, to you, and to the essential narrative of Australian identity as it is revealed by composers drawing inspiration from this ancient land.
To return is complex at the best of times. This past year has led each of us to grapple with desire and dread at what returning might mean.
When would life return to whatever we once considered to be normal? When would we return to our concert halls and theatres? Having done all that we could and all that we must, masking our fears and our faces and remaining apart for longer than we thought we could bear it, could we be certain the mayhem would not return?
As I write this letter to you, I draw strength from the hope that also resides in returning.
The concerts in the 2021 Australian Series are titled Sharing the Sky, Within and Without and Reclaiming the Night. Within the broader context of Return, these evocative ideas have inspired commissions by Moya Henderson, Peggy Polias, Ella Macens and Brenda Gifford, adding to the continuous narrative sung and played on this continent longer than anywhere else.
These new works will be accompanied by music from Paul Dean, Nat Bartsch, Leanne Bear and Sally Greenaway. Surrendering to the lure of Return, I look forward to making my own contribution as singer and composer in the first and third concerts.
I hope each concert fills you with anticipation for the next as we continue to explore, understand and celebrate what it is to be part of the longest continuing music practice in the world.
Prof Deborah Cheetham AO
Australian Series Curator