Featured recording

Mission songs project : Indigenous folk songs from the missions, a lecture by Jessie Lloyd from the 2017 National Folk Fellowship concert, held at the National Library of Australia, 2017. 


A man in a cap and sunglasses jumps in the air while singing into a microphone
Martin Philbey, Hilltop Hoods performing at Big Day Out, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, 28 January 2008, nla.obj-151551215
A row of men in concert dress holding musical instruments

Reg Lewis and the Prince Edwardians at the Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney, c1945, nla.obj-147014210

This section of the guide focuses on the performance of vocal and instrumental music in Australia.  See our Music research guide for information about sheet music collections and the history of musical composition in Australia.  

The Library has a diverse collection of materials documenting the history of Australian musical performance.  These include: 

  • Australian First Nations music  
  • Classical (operatic, choral, orchestral) 
  • Contemporary popular music 
  • Jazz music 
  • Folk music 
  • Musical Theatre (Musicals, vaudeville, panto, comic opera, variety/revue, cabaret)  
  • World music 

Our collections capture musical performance through books, journals, eResources, programs, oral histories, pictorial collections, and papers of individual musicians and music organisations. The PROMPT collection includes some rich resources, such as: 

Tip: collections relating to festivals can be an excellent source for musical performance. The Library has captured resources relating to Big Day Out, Bluesfest, Falls Music and Arts Festival, National Folk Festival, Sunbury, Tamworth Country Music Festival and many more. 

Music performance collection highlights 

Organisations & promoters 

New Zealand born Harry Maurice Miller established himself as a prominent show business promoter, manager and entrepreneur, promoting a large number of concert tours, musicals and theatre productions. The Library holds the Papers of Harry M. Miller, 1958-2003, which document his career in Australia, interviews, and a collection of photographs from the musical productions Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, 1970-1995


The Sydney Opera House is a performing arts centre on the banks of the Sydney harbour. The distinctive and world heritage listed building is widely regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Significant items in the Library’s collection include the architect's model for the geometry of the Sydney Opera House Shells, John Olsen’s Opera House Journal and a collection of programs.  See also Don McMurdo performing arts collection - most of the performances captured in this collection were at the Sydney Opera House where Don McMurdo was employed as a staff photographer from 1977 to 1990.


Singer, actor, writer, director and arts administrator. Robyn Archer has toured widely in Australia and overseas as a performer and festival director. Robyn Archer’s papers are a rich resource of material relating to shows from the 1970s and 1980s in which she performed, and which she wrote and directed. Our collections also include oral history recordings and a collection of postcards of Robyn Archer in A star is torn

Tex Morton was a pioneer of New Zealand and Australian country and western music, vaudevillian, actor, television host and circus performer. Our collections include the Papers of Tex Morton and a collection of oral history recordings

A collection of manuscripts, theatre programs and interviews document the Australian and overseas careers of opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland and her husband Richard Bonynge, orchestral conductor. 

Key music performance collections 

The Benvenuti Collection contains 134 items, mostly concert programs, dance programs, dance cards, invitations and menus. They date from 1882 to 1966, but there are only a few items after 1940. The principal organisations documented are Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Brisbane Musical Union, the Brisbane Orchestral Society and the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra. 

The original Fahey Collection consists of 79 tape recordings. Fifty-nine of the recordings were made by Fahey when he travelled around New South Wales and Queensland in 1973 recording folk musicians and retired miners, drovers, teamsters, stockmen, farmers, bagmen and others. The recordings contain folk songs, dance music, folklore, customs and beliefs, children’s games, riddles, and contemporary songs and poems. The personal papers document Fahey’s activities as an entrepreneur, musician and writer from about 1967 to 1998.

A collection of printed material, music and personal papers relating to opera singers and composers. 

The Library has a small but significant collection of Indigenous music. Significant items include, My Thoughts and I'm Happy To-day by composer and vocalist Tom Foster, multilingual song book Unte nthenharenye : where do you come from?  with lyrics in Arrente and English, and Pecan summer by composer and soprano, Deborah Cheetham. 

A collection of printed material, music, personal papers and photographs relating to Australian operatic soprano Dame Nellie Melba, one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century. 

A collection of the field recordings and photographs of pioneer collector of Australian folk music and song, John Meredith. The collection also includes Meredith’s personal papers and manuscripts.  

The collection consists of recordings of music, folktales and interviews from Australians of various cultural backgrounds, including Middle Eastern, southern European, Pacific Islander and south American. 

The Rob Willis Collection is one of the largest oral history collections in Australia. He has recorded over 900 individuals in all states of Australia, as well as folk groups, singing groups, bands and choirs. To date, the collection totals 856 hours of playing time. 

Music performance reference works 

Online resources for music performance 

Australian music resources can be accessed online through our eResources, archived websites, and other freely available databases. 

Collection highlights

Souvenir program from The Geisha, a Japanese musical play in 2 acts.

Program advertising a play called The Geisha at Sydney's Her Majesty's Theatre

Sidney Jones & Harry G. Musgrove (Firm). & J.C. Williamson (Firm). & Her Majesty's Theatre (Sydney, N.S.W.),  "The Geisha" : souvenir programme,  [1899], nla.obj-69061919
A woman sits at a piano with her head turned toward the camera, smiling
Portrait of Winifred Atwell [3]. [between 1950 and 1970], nla.obj-144625849

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