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A New Memorial For Gustav Holst (posted 15 Jan 2010)

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A New Memorial for Gustav Holst...

Picture: Gustav Holst
Gustav Holst

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 2009.

Holst's closest friend was Bishop George 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, Organsit 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 fine oval memorial, deeply incised in Hopton Wood stone, has been designed 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 in September 2009 and is now installed in the Cathedral's North Transept.

When dedicating the stone, the Dean quoted the words of Bishop Bell from Holst's 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, courange 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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