Taking music to the streets

Stewart Crawford
Monday, 1 January 2018

As a Reference Officer, Stewart Crawford uses his knowledge to help researchers find records held in the National Archives’ collection. This means he gets to speak to many interesting people – including some of Australia’s creative talents. He takes up the story.

One day I received a call from Natalie Trayling, a musician and composer, who was asking after a book of songs she had submitted for copyright in early 1965.

She mentioned she still played and that her music could be found online, which piqued my curiosity. It didn’t take long to find videos of her performing her own music as well as the works of the great composers. One video, taken by her son Matthew, has been viewed by millions.
Natalie starting writing music at a young age: she wrote one composition in the book, Parting song, when she was around 19 years old after seeing the Queen on her visit to Perth in 1954. Natalie’s talent caught the attention of conductor Sir Bernard Heinze, who arranged for her to receive music tuition at a Catholic college. 

After graduating, teaching and touring Australia with a group of musicians, Natalie lived in Tasmania with her young family. In early 1965, she began transcribing songs she’d written, as well as composing many new ones. 

‘My mother had only just recently left his world, and I wrote a song New Day for her,' she said. 

Now in her 80s, Natalie has continued to perform and compose, and has been a fixture busking in the Melbourne CBD for many years. You may have noticed her performing around Flinders Street Station or on pianos in department stores and public libraries. She says the enjoyment of seeing people’s reactions is ‘the main part of what I like about busking. It’s fantastic just to play there amongst the people and I can see how they feel about [the music]’. 

New music continues to come to her.

‘When I play, a lot of things just come spontaneously without any premeditated method…like it’s coming from a source…through me and yet of me.’

More than 50 years after she submitted her book for copyright registration, there is clearly no shortage of inspiration. 

Natalie’s book of songs can be viewed on RecordSearch. 

This story was originally published in Issue 3 of the National Archives magazine, in 2018.