Turning the tale of a WWI veteran into an orchestral score.

As a composer who has worked in film, the idea of writing music to accompany dramatic narrative is a process that holds its own special rewards and fascination, however it is not often one is offered the opportunity to come face to face with the personal account of a family’s powerful history and invited to render it through an orchestral suite.

When Melbourne barrister Don Farrands first showed me the memoirs of his grandfather Nelson Ferguson, I was deeply moved by the tenderness and courage of an extraordinary life. Ferguson was a Ballarat artist who became a stretcher-bearer in World War I. Blinded by mustard gas in the battle for Villers-Bretonneux, he returned to Australia, regained partial vision and founded a factory which made stained glass windows, earning him the moniker “The Glass Soldier”.

Don’s invitation to enshrine his grandfather’s legacy in a musical work was a huge responsibility and an inspiring task. As I immersed myself in historical documents of the era, I recognised an Australia marked by very different attitudes and values, and a people that were besieged by the challenge of grappling with their fate, and...

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