The Australian War Memorial holds a growing collection of sheet music which currently includes over 900 titles. The collection includes both individual pieces, and compilations of sheet music. The date range of this collection extends from the 1850s through to the mid-2000s. Of these approximately 250 pieces relate to the First World War.
Some of the music held in the Memorial’s collection was written by service people themselves, either during the war or after return to Australia, or by iconic and well-known composers and lyricists. A number of the songs were performed by concert parties, or were heard at concerts in London or Paris.
The Memorial’s Published Collections team has recently begun a project to digitise the Memorial’s collection of sheet music from the First World War. This project began with the digitisation of five pieces of music performed at the Memorial’s Friends’ Gala Dinner on 3 October 2014. These pieces were selected for the stories told either through the lyrics, performances of the songs or previous owners of the music. The five pieces of sheet music can be found here.
One interesting song in the Published Collections is I hear you calling me. This song was first published in 1908, with the words written by journalist Harold Lake, under the pen name Harold Harford, some time after music was written by composer Charles Marshall. The work was published in multiple keys, and had been popularised through a recording by the Irish tenor John McCormack.