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75th Anniversary of The Death of Gustav Holst (posted 9 October 2009)

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Cathedral Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Gustav Holst

Picture: New Holst Memorial
New Holst Memorial

The 75th Anniversary of the death of the composer Gustav Holst was celebrated in a three day Festival at Chichester Cathedral from 25 - 27 September.  Among those participating were the Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir of St Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith where Holst taught music for much of his life, and the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth who gave a concert, with the Cathedral Choir, of music by Holst and his contemporaries.  The St Paul's concert was introduced by Patricia Routledge, a Patron of the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham.

Holst's closest friend was Bishop Goerge Bell and it was Bell who drew him to Sussex with his Whitsuntide Singers to make music in the Cathedral and parishes around Chichester.  On his death in 1934, Holst's family asked if the composer's ashes might be buried in the Cathedral, and this was done in the North Transept, beneath a memorial to Thomas Weelkes, Organist of the Cathedral in the 17th Century, whose music Holst much admired.

As Holst's reputation has grown over the years, prominent musicians and visitors have suggested a proper memorial should be provided and this has now been achieved.  A final oval memorial, deeply incised in Hopton Wood stone, has been designed and made by Alec Peever in conjunction with the Cathedral Surveyor Colin Kerr.  It contains a simple inscription from Holst's Hymn of Jesus, 'The heavenly spheres make music for us.'

The stone was dedicated by the Dean at a commemorative service of Evensong on 27 September 2009, during which he quoted words of Bishop Bell from his Funeral oration, praising Holst's gifts of friendship and his passion for teaching: 'He is with the Father of lights, of whose perfect gifts he gave us, in music and friendship, courage and joy and love, being himself a gift from above.  To the Father of lights his own art was dedicated, his own spirit consecrated.'

The musicologist and Holst scholar Raymond Head has written that the new memorial, 'will appropriately recognise Holst's genius and his links with Chichester, as a special human being with special links to this Cathedral.'

The Dean, the Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, said 'It is a privilege to be able to give due recognition to one of the great figures of British music in the 20th Century, whose international reputation now exceeds those of Elgar and Delius, and to acknowledge Holst's deep spirituality and longing for a world at peace.'

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