Songs of Home

Songs of Home tells the little-known story of music played and enjoyed in NSW during the first 70 years of the colony.

This vibrant musical world is explored through recordings of early music, rare instruments, printed scores, and remarkable stories of people creating home through song. Step into grand houses, humble cottages, vast landscapes, pubs and churches, and discover the soundtrack of early Sydney.

See and hear the earliest transcriptions of Aboriginal songs. Follow the story of Australia’s first piano as it made its way from Britain to Elizabeth Farm in Parramatta. Discover the story of the Murray family and their musical possessions, hauled by horse-drawn carriage over the Blue Mountains. On display for the first time in Australia are albums of music hand-copied by Jane Austen, revealing her musical tastes and practices, similar to those brought to Australia by immigrants in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Experience a diverse array of music, old and new, through performances by leading Australian and British musicians, as well as students at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. A series of specially commissioned contemporary works by Aboriginal composers, in partnership with the Ngarra-Burria First Peoples Composers initiative with support from the Royal Australian Navy Band, highlight the powerful and continuing presence of Aboriginal music making.

Surprising, moving, entertaining – the fascinating world of music in early NSW is revealed here for the first time as a place of melodious complexity.









Past exhibition

  • 10 August 2019 - 17 November 2019

Five images of composers done as composite image.
Songs of home

Contemporary First Peoples Composers

Australia holds one of the oldest living cultures in the world, and First Nations music making is the oldest continuing form of music making

Illustrated portrait of woman with hair up in bun, wearing dark dress - framed by title of sheet music and publishing details.

From the collection: Catherine Hayes illustration

This sheet music cover is the only known copy of this illustration of the soprano Catherine Hayes (1818–1861), one of the world’s first international opera and concert stars

White signpost with several signs pointing in different directions.
Songs of home

Jane Austen: at home with music

Jane Austen’s music albums provide a new understanding of the use of music in the author’s work and the importance of music making in the Regency home

Theo Small (flute), Associate Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, Esther Kim (piano) and Jemma Thrussell (cello) from the Historical Performance Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, in the drawing room at Elizabeth Bay House
Songs of home

Playing our song

Music offers a unique window into our past, and the stories and collections of our properties contain compelling clues about the music played by earlier generations