Call him back, we’re calling him back – we need our son here with us.

Having completed his latest tour of Afghanistan, an Australian soldier is on leave and taking the opportunity to return to his family’s farm in regional New South Wales – he is looking forward to resting. However, as he makes his way home he is confronted by news that is both life-affirming and devastating, which pushes him to reveal a dark secret that clings like a ghost. Ultimately he must question everything he knows. What sort of man is he? What does it mean to be brave? And what future might be waiting for his family?

Acclaimed writer Nigel Featherstone and composer James Humberstone collaborated to produce this gritty, song-filled chronicle giving voice to the personal impact of modern warfare and the costs that are borne by families. Bittersweet memories meet night-shattering dreams and the stilling gaze of children, in a terrain of physical beauty and inner turmoil. Australia’s participation in the war in Afghanistan is the nation’s longest ever military involvement and The Weight of Light is an intimate portrayal of man and soldier that pulls the audience into the cracks of human relationships and masculine identity in the 21st century.

Hume Conservatorium and The Street Theatre produced this world premiere in Canberra, Goulburn and Sydney in 2018, featuring outstanding baritone Michael Lampard and popular pianist Alan Hicks in a suspenseful production where song cycle met theatre and absolution was sought by all.

Michael Lampard as The Soldier
Accompaniment: Alan Hicks
Composition: James Humberstone
Libretto: Nigel Featherstone

Producer: Paul Scott-Williams
Direction: Caroline Stacey
Production Design: Imogen Keen
Lighting Design: Linda Buck

'The Weight of Light' was commissioned by Hume Conservatorium with creative development by The Street Theatre, Canberra. Composed by James Humberstone (Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney) as part of his ongoing research outputs. Purchase a copy of the accompanying study guide.


Canberra Times

City News


Composer: Sean O'Boyle AM

Conductor: Dr Anita Collins

Soloist: Kirsten Williams

Education Leader: Keva Abotomey

5 April 2016, Canberra

As a special event, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra's Meet the Music concert was dedicated to the performance of “The Goulburn Concerto" 5 on April 2016. This work was written for professional musicians to perform alongside, and as equal members, with young, disadvantaged children from Goulburn, who have only been playing their instruments for two years. This work featured Kirsten Williams as violin soloist; Kirsten was formerly the Associate Concert Master of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The concert was free and was attended by school children from Goulburn, the Goulburn Region, Canberra and very importantly, parents of the Goulburn young musicians, most of whom had have never stepped inside a concert hall.

This work has been composed by a world-renowned Australian composer Sean O’Boyle AM and was premiered in the United States by three professional orchestras and include young, disadvantaged musicians from areas such as LA, New York and Chicago. The work was supported by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra who made significant contribution to the commissioning fee, providing professional musicians and general supporting this innovative idea to creating effective links between professional arts organisations, Canberra's community and extending out to the regional areas that are so integral to the nation's capital. The entire project emerged from the innovative Goulburn Strings Project under the direction of team at Hume Conservatorium.

View an excerpt of the performance.


On 9 March 2016, Member for Goulburn, the Honorable Pru Goward, addressed parliament to speak about the project and what it means for the children involved, the wider Goulburn Community and the future of how we approach music education.



The Age

Weight of Light - 14.jpg

Photo Credit : 666 ABC Canberra: Louise Maher


Composer: Stephen Leek

Libretto: Regional Poets

Conductor: Paul Scott-Williams

3 November 2013, St Saviour’s Common, Bourke Street, Goulburn


Traditionally, an Oratorio is a large-scale musical work that involves big choral sections, some soloists and an orchestra. It’s a bit like an opera or musical, but it is not staged. There are no sets or costumes involved, but there can be dramatic elements like lighting and some appropriate imagery and platforms to perform on. This is the traditional understanding. A modern Oratorio can be something quite different. Still without the formal staging qualities, but the style can be easily adapted to incorporate multiple art forms, spoken word, dance and even light projections. This is why we chose to call this huge work “The Goulburn Oratorio”.


The Goulburn Oratorio was a multi-arts event, which included a specially commissioned major piece of music. This was performed by Hume Conservatorium and collaborating musical partners from across the region. There were dramatic elements, spoken word, recitation, poetry, puppetry and dance incorporated throughout the work and these elements were provided by the Lieder Theatre. There were dramatic light projections, building mapping and incorporating selected images and motifs that fitted with the musical and dramatic themes. Some of this work was provided by the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery (GRAG).  


Goulburn turned 150 in March 2013. We thought that a fitting way to bring our year of celebration to a rousing end would be to create a large, exciting, memorable event for our community. When we celebrated our birthday, we paid homage to the past. We celebrated who we were, where we have come from and where we are now. The Goulburn Oratorio was the final element of our year of celebration and brought into focus – the future! The first words of the Oratorio are “Where have we come from? What have we learned from the past? Where are we going? What is our future?” These are important questions for us all to consider. Regional school children and regional poets have submitted poems, thoughts and ideas about the future of our region; what it’s like to live here; what it might be like in the future. These words were used to create a work that is 90 minutes long and traverses a journey from our aboriginal ancestors through to an imagined future for our region.


The work was seen to be a positive representation of the diversity of life in and around Goulburn. The music from The Goulburn Oratorio went on to win the 2014 APRA Art Music Award for Excellence in Regional Australia. We remain extremely grateful to, and appreciative of the immense amount of work done by composer Stephen Leek, regional poets, local school students, the staff of the GRC who worked so hard and all of the musicians who joined us for this singular event.


Composer/Libretto: James Humberstone

Graphic Artist / Bbook: Little Pink Pebble
Performer: Michael Kieran-Harvey


The first commission undertaken by the Goulburn Regional Conservatorium was a charming work set in Goulburn. Following the story of two small children who don't quite fit in until they discover the magic of the piano. The brother and sister explore all kinds of magical worlds through music as they go about their lives in Goulburn. 

The exciting moment came on the final page of the book where the music they had created on The Speaking Piano was performed live in concert by world famous Australian pianist, Michael Kieran-Harvey – and that is exactly what happened in reality!!

Composer, James Humberstone created a rich, textured world of musical beauty experienced through the eyes of children on the streets of Goulburn. James collaborated with graphic artist Little Pink Pebble, to create a beautiful book and online version of the work. The music was delivered to school via our In Schools Music Program where Keva Abotomey ensured that regional students could learn the magical music imagined by the children and then come to the exciting concert to discover how it all turned out! It was a wonderful experience.

Hear the story of The Speaking Piano.