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June 2, 2016

Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst, (1874-1934) born in Cheltenham, England, is probably best known for his Planets Suite.

As a child, he loved the piano and practiced it for hours, but did not like the violin, the instrument his father chose for him. He had neuritis in his hands, which made practicing a pain (literally.)

His first job was in 1893 as organist in a small village. An aspiring composer, this experience helped him understand the inner workings of vocal music.

Gustav's grandfather (Gustavus) was a harpist! His father (Adolph) was an organist and choir director. His mother, Clara, was a singer. She died when  Gustav was only 8. His stepmother, Mary Thorley Stone, was a pianist.

Gustav and his wife, Emily Isobel Harrison, had one child, Imogen, who was a composer. She was also assistant to Benjamin Britten and became head of the the annual Aldeburgh Festival. You can read more about Imogen here . Gustav had a younger brother, Emil, who was an actor. Emil's stage name was Ernest Cossart. Gustav Holst's name at birth was Gustavus Theodore von Holst. He dropped the "von" in 1918.

If you're further interested in Imogen Holst, there is a book called Imogen Holst, A Life in Music from Boydell and Brewer publishers:  Here.

Gustav Holst died at the young age of 59 from complications due to stomach cancer surgery. Here's an excellent web site to learn more about Mr. Holst:

You can even follow Gustav Holst on Twitter  Follow us on Twitter

Jupiter, from The Planets, is a Holst piece that is very popular for the harp. Its beautiful melody was brought to our attention by Kim Robertson, with her exquisite arrangement from 2006, and so we celebrate its 10th anniversary.

True for many hymns, the tune is named after a town. The village of Thaxted was established in 1205, in open countryside in the district of Essex, England. The hymn (poem) also known as "Oh God Beyond All Praising" was written by Cecil Spring-Rice. More information can be found at It is also known as "I Vow to Thee My Country".

[Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst are often thought of as the great modern English composers of hymns. Their music is majestic. They are sometimes confused with each other - I even found a Holst website with a picture of Vaughan Williams incorrectly inserted above Holst's name.]

Since Kim's arrangement, more of the beautiful Jupiter theme has emerged. I have listed the ones we carry at Melody's.

Meredith Mancini: Mancini's arrangement

Janet Witman: Witman's duo arrangement (intermediate duo)

I Vow to Thee - Kim Robertson's arrangement: Kim's original arrangement, advanced intermediate

Ensemble version that goes with this solo version: Ensemble parts to go with above

Beth Kolle and Laurie Rilley: Wedding Music for the Lever Harp (it's in this book) Riley/Kolle arrangement

Debbie Friou - Classical Music for the Harp: Friou arrangement (in this book)

Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher - The Restaurant Book, Classical: Classical Restaurant Book - paper version (in this collection). Also available as a download: Classical Restaurant PDF download

The Classical Fake Book: - lead line only, huge book.

Harpers Hall Ensemble Book V2: Harpers Hall Trio Version (trio for mixed levels)

Angi Bemiss V2 Classical Selections: Bemiss Version (in this collection)

The versions in the following books are not as complete/full/challenging as the solo ve rsion.

Kim Robertson: Shall We Gather Shall We Gather Book (in this collection)

 Kim Robertson, Highland Heart: Highland Heart Book  (in this collection)

 Kim's website: Kim Robertson Website

If you have read this far, thank you!  Here is a You Tube of "I Vow to Thee My Country" that you might enjoy.

We hope you had a good Memorial Day Weekend.


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Brought to you by Melody's Traditional Music & Afghan Press Music for Harp. Thanks for reading down this far!  Have a great and harpy day!