Songs of Home

Sydney Living Museums

2020: Projects over $150,000

Songs of Home tells the little-known story of music played and enjoyed in NSW during the first 70 years of the colony. It focuses on how people constructed a sense of ‘home’ and ‘place’ through music and also marks the initial intersection between the musical cultures of the First Nations people and colonists, reflecting on what this means in a contemporary context. Surprising, moving, entertaining – the fascinating world of music in early NSW is revealed here for the first time as a place of melodious complexity.

The exhibition was the culmination of almost a decade of research, musician and scholarly collaborations and exploration of intangible heritage in SLM house museums.

The key objectives were to:

1. Engage with new audiences by using music as a lens to interpret social and place-based history.
2. Present original research and rare objects to the public.
3. Showcase SLM’s unique research, revealing little known but significant stories about Sydney’s history.
4. Rediscover and revive lost musical soundscapes and work with contemporary musicians to record the music that was played up until the 1860s.
5. Work with First Peoples composers to provide contemporary interpretations through new musical works and to highlight the powerful and continuing presence of Aboriginal music making.
6. Create opportunities for a social and participatory experience within the exhibition and at home.
7. Deliver an exhibition that makes all SLM visitors feel welcome (new, repeat, young and old) and everyone will find interest, fun and wonder in the experience we offer.


Awards Submission

Part B Supporting Documentation

Project Team: 

Project Manager: Kate Spencer
Curator: Dr Matthew Stephens (CSLRC Librarian)
Expert Advisor – Curatorial/Research: Graeme Skinner (external consultant)
British Music Advisor: Professor Jeanice Brooks, University of Southampton (external consultant)
Assistant curator/ Exhibition Officer: Amelia Lindsay and Clare Travers
Exhibition Designer: Elin Thomas
Graphic Designer: Bruce Smythe
Registrar: Julia Mackay
Editor: Clara Finlay
Installation Officer: Levon Broederlow
Digital: Rory McKay
Film Production and Sound Recordings: Mason Dean
Sound Recordings and Mastering: Patrick Mullins (external consultant)
Marketing:Claire Yarker
Media: Emma Heath
Retail: Lee Tougher
Members Programs: Katie Furlonger
Public Programs: Aleema Ash


3D Build: Big City Production Services
Graphic Design: Blow-Up Imaging


Director of SCM soundtracks with 19 music students: Dr Neal Peres Da Costa, Associate Dean (Research), Professor of Historical Performance, Sydney Conservatorium of Music (SCM), University of Sydney; additional historical keyboard recordings.
Cello soloist: Dr Daniel Yeadon, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Soprano soloist: Amy Moore
Harpist soloist: Karen Hickmott
Director, Choir of St James’: Warren Trevelyan-Jones with the Choir of St James’
Organist, Choir of St James’: Alistair Nelson
First Peoples Songs: Clarence Slockee (voice/clapsticks), Matthew Doyle (voice/clapsticks), Kevin Hunt (piano)
Commissioned First Peoples Composers: Brenda Gifford, Tim Gray, Troy j Russell, Elizabeth Sheppard, Nardi Simpson
Director, Ngarra-Burria, First Peoples Composers: Christopher Sainsbury, Australian National University
Performers, First Peoples Compositions: Royal Australian Navy Band, recorded by ABC Classic
Blackface Minstrelsy Panel Text and Recording: Rhiannon Giddens (minstrel banjo) with Francesco Turrisi (tamburello) (US/Ireland)
Director, Concerto Caledonia (Video and Music Album): Dr David McGuinness, University of Glasgow (piano), recorded and mastered by Matt Parkin, London (UK).
Guest Soprano, Concerto Caledonia: Lorna Anderson (UK)
Concerto Caledonia: Aaron McGregor (violin), Gabi Maas (violin, viola), Dorian Komanoff Bandy (violin), Alice Allen (cello), Jean Kelly (harp) (UK)
Jane Austen Music recorded at Jane Austen’s House Museum (UK): Helen Neeves (voice) and Samantha Carrasco (piano); eight tracks recorded by Royal College of Music Studios, London.
‘Playing our song’ contemporary reflections: Sydney Flash Mob Choir; Genevieve Lacey (recorder); James Fagan and Nancy Kerr with the Melrose Quartet (UK); Dami Im (vocalist); Brenda Gifford; Tim Gray; Troy j Russell; Elizabeth Sheppard; Nardi Simpson
Commissioned British Composition: Laura Bowler (UK)
British Composition performers: Omega Ensemble (Aust)
Curious Caledonians concert and CD: Evergreen Ensemble/Concerto Caledonia/Sydney Conservatorium of Music