Collection by Theme

29th July 2016

While the Holst Archive provides ample research material on the individual lives and music of Gustav and Imogen, it also documents a remarkable father-daughter relationship in the history of British music. Imogen and Gustav had many ideals, interests and talents in common, which is in evidence throughout the collection. Here we focus on just some of the roles and interests they shared: as conductors, composers, music educators and community musicians, and ethnomusicologists.

Father and daughter: composers

Imogen won composition prizes as a student at the Royal College of Music where her father had studied before her. She put her own composing aside during her time as Britten’s music assistant, then in 1964 ceased working for Britten to concentrate on editing and promoting the music of her father. She worked tirelessly promoting her father’s legacy, publishing many books on his life and work, the first of which Gustav Holst: A biography was published just four years after his death in 1938. In later years Imogen returned to writing major original compositions herself.

Father and daughter: conductors

Imogen was a skilled conductor and regularly took to the podium during the Aldeburgh Festival, often conducting the Aldeburgh Music Club or the Aldeburgh Festival Choir. In 1973 she published the book Conducting a Choir setting out clearly and concisely, and often amusingly, a wealth of practical information for the amateur conductor. Gustav conducted the first performances of many of his works, as well as amateur choirs and orchestras throughout his life.

Father and daughter: teachers and community musicians

Amongst many teaching posts held throughout his life, Gustav was Director of Music at St. Paul’s Girls’ School from 1905 to 1934 and at Morley College for Working Men and Women from 1907 to 1924. After teaching at Eothen and Roedean girls’ schools, Imogen worked as Director of Music at Dartington Hall from 1942 to 1950. The music department that Imogen set up at Dartington was way ahead of its time, but in fact she was consciously following the earlier example of her father, particularly his work at Morley College. Imogen’s continuing enthusiasm for working with amateur singers and players made her a much-loved part of the Suffolk music scene.

Father and daughter: ethnomusicologists

In the 1930s Imogen turned away from composing original works in favour of arranging folk-song and dance. Her fascination for folk music was not confined to English traditions. Typical of her wide interests was the brief sabbatical she took in India towards the end of her time at Dartington when she spent two months at Santiniketan University in West Bengal studying Indian music. Her interest in the subject may have sprung partly from the fact that her father translated hymns from Sanskrit into English.