HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Not many songs have their own interpretive centers, but "Waltzing Matilda'" is even more deeply ingrained in Australia's culture than the official anthem. "Waltzing Matilda," which has sent Australians to war and welcomed them home again, is a fixture at sporting events (including the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony), is learned by school children and played in the halls of power. Who'll come a-'Waltzing Matilda' with me? commemorates a song with a history worthy of a song of its own.
An online exhibition of the National Library of Australia, Waltzing looks at some myths and -as far as they can be established- the facts about the creation of the ballad in 1895, and follows its evolution to the present day. A keyword search is available, but largely unnecessary due to the logical, linear presentation of the site's contents.
Origins recounts how the song about an itinerant worker, written by a Sydney solicitor (who also wrote "The Man from Snowy River") moved from its birthplace in the sitting room of a Queensland station (ranch), to a performance before the state's governor, to publication in newspapers and leaflets distributed to regional pubs. Varying theories about the lineage of the melody are also provided - along with sheet music for those who may want to play along (and an audio file for those who may want to sing along).
Versions deals with three main interpretations of the song that have evolved over the century since its composition - again with audio for easy comparison. Not surprisingly for a song that passed through so many hands, the rendition you're familiar with is not the original, but a version altered -and marginally cheered up- to promote Billy Tea ("Australia's National Drink").