The Piano in Colonial South Australia and Beyond

Date and Time
Fri 18 Nov, 3pm
Adult $25 / Student $15
The Lab (63 Light Square, Adelaide)
1 hour (without interval)

What can the piano tell us about our past? A lot, says pianist and historian Ben Nicholls. After the first Governor’s piano floated ashore in 1837, pianos powerfully shaped people’s public and private lives through to the 1920s. Hear excerpts of the era’s music and discover what the piano meant for colony, empire, and fledgeling nation. The presentation will draw from diaries, journals, the local press, and imaginative fiction.

Learn how Catherine Helen Spence deployed the piano in her novels, and how popular sheet music brought military brigades and the Federal movement into peoples homes.

This is South Australian history as you have never heard it before.


Ben Nicholls


Talk, and performance extracts from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, various pieces from the 1800s in South Australia, alongside representative piano music from Mendelssohn, Czerny, Debussy, and Percy Grainger’s Colonial Song.