The following words and images came to me recently while listening to Gustav Holst’s Brook Green Suite. He wrote it from his hospitable bed a year before he died in 1934.
of stars and planets
prelude to death
leans forward into
* * *
Nothing sentimental or spectacularly grand. I don’t think Holst had death on his mind when he wrote this three-part suite for a student orchestra. I think he had his students in mind. Young women studying at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London, where Holst served as Director of Music from 1905 until his death in 1934.
Holst insisted on real music for the young women studying at St. Paul’s. Several of them had distinguished careers as professional musicians. In composition classes, Holst pushed his students to compose music in their own voices, without sentimental or unnecessary notes and phrases. This was not in fashion for young girls and women when he began his directorship.
When Holst wrote or selected compositions for his students, he gave them real music suited to their skill levels. He didn’t water down music written by someone else, and he didn’t write ‘baby music’ for them. He gave them the real stuff that would challenge and delight them as well as their audiences.
I expect that’s what Holst was thinking about as he composed the Brook Street Suite. Just reading about him was inspiring and made me smile. He left far more than a legacy of musical compositions.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 February 2016
Image found at Wikipedia