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It is possible, if not probable, that in my lifetime I will have the chance to view our planet from space. Like me, you too may enjoy contemplating what new perspective that experience would bring for humanity; the chance to survey our planet in context. How would it change us to see, firsthand, the Earth in its finite solitude?

The original premise for this commission from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was to create a movement which would complement the intent of Holst’s The Planets suite by adding the Earth to the seven movements named after our neighbours in the Solar System – a daunting enough task, but with all the excitement and challenge of a large orchestral palette. Somewhere along the way, Earth became a standalone work for this performance, changing some of my initial plans for the composition. But, as with each commission, the main point is to find your inspiration and begin.

Eumeralla DCF for blog
Deborah Cheetham Fraillon at MSO Eumeralla 2023. Photo © Laura Manariti

2023 had been a huge year for me personally, beginning with overwhelming joy and happiness of my marriage to much loved Australian conductor Nicolette Fraillon. My appointment as Elizabeth Todd Chair of Vocal Studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music which came with a move back to my home state of NSW after 16 very happy years in my adopted home on Boonwurrung country in Naarm. A new ballet score for Daniel Riley’s work The Hum; my second opera Parrwang Lifts the Sky produced by Short Black Opera; Sydney World Pride; vocal recitals; an international tour and other commissions but all the while Earth was firmly in my thoughts.

How to capture the character of this planet in just 8 minutes? What to say? How much? How little?

Then a referendum was unleashed on us all.

Uninvited, this process came in and took over my life.

Gruelling, punishing and ultimately devastating, the process left me mute for several months.

I could not sing, I could not write.

But Earth demanded my attention. It broke my compositional silence in the most dramatic way.

The moment of creation. The expansion of the universe from unsustainable tension and density.

What a metaphor!

Ultimately the Earth is set apart from its neighbours in this solar system by our humanity. And so, in the process of composing this work I decided to include that which truely defines us - our Voice. It seemed fitting, on the occasion of the premiere in March 2024, that I regain my voice and perform the text alongside colleagues and friends of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra including Chief Conductor Jaime Martin on the podium. The glimmering, shining beauty of nature lifted me from my silence and dismay to finally to write this text and to set it as the finale of this work.


come shining world

moving through silence

just for a moment

let me shine with you

carry my song

moving through silence

shining world

Sun breathing Earth

glist'ning in space

when I dream, you tell me all you know

let me remember

moving through silence

this shining world is our home.

Cheetham Fraillon AO 2024

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Ryman Healthcare Season Opening Gala: The Planets

21 & 23 March 2023
Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall

Info and tickets

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