Free concert at Thaxted to celebrate 100 years since Holst founded festival

Paulinas

Paulinas - Credit: Archant

A free concert takes place in Thaxted Church next week to mark a 100 years since the composer Gustav Holst founded the Thaxted Music Festival there.

The choir and orchestra of St Paul’s Girls School in London, where Holst was director of music, is putting on an anniversary performance.

Girls at the school took part in the first festival that Holst organized at Whitsun 1916.

The composer first visited the Thaxted in 1913 on a walking holiday. He was so taken with it that he bought a weekend home there and later moved to the village full-time. Holst soon became friendly with Conrad Noel, the vicar of Thaxted, and took a great interest in the village’s church and its choir.

The first festival included St Paul’s Girls’ pupils and adults from Morley College, in London where he also taught evening classes to people catching up with their education. They used to say it was “a little bit of heaven they went to Tuesday nights.”


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His pupils from both establishments took part in a the first four day festival of formal and informal music-making, which has carried on annually as a summer festival over four weekends, Friday to Sunday in June and July.

The anniversary concert, on Thursday, March 17, will feature some of the most talented musicians at St Paul’s Girls. The programme includes Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and movements from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as the St Paul’s Suite, which Holst wrote for his pupils to mark the opening of a music wing, where he was built a sound-proof room for composing.

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Lessons still take place in the room where Holst composed The Planets. There are currently 60 musicians teaching at St Paul’s Girls.

The concert next week starts at 7pm. Entry is free. There will be a retiring collection to raise funds for the church, which is in Watling Street in the centre of the village. Postcode CM6 2PE.

This year’s Thaxted Festival opens on Friday, June 24 and runs until Sunday, July 17. For a programme and to book tickets, see: www.thaxtedfestival.org.uk. Tickets can be booked on line after Tuesday, March 29, meanwhile, you can print off a booking form from the website and post it to: Thaxted Festival Office, 10 Watling Street, Thaxted, Essex CM6 2PE. Tickets will be supplied on a first come, first served basis. Or call The Festival Office, 01371 831421 (mornings only).

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