Gustav Holst and Beni Mora

Gustav Holst was a great believer in listening to the music of the people, any people, if he thought it would help him develop his own music.

From about 1905 onward he became interested in English folksongs, becoming friendly with Cecil Sharp whom he greatly admired, and made many arrangements of them. Somerset Rhapsody (1907) was based upon some tunes from the West Country. Later in 1908 he was to find the music of Algeria of interest and this led to the creation of one of his most impressive and original works, the suite Beni Mora. The process of composition would have been unthinkable without Holst taking his iron bike to the mountains and deserts of Algeria. The insight this close connection with the land and its people provided was to lead to a unique compositional experience for this adventurous British composer.

Raymond Head is a composer, teacher and Holst scholar who is a Musical Adviser to the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham and a former Trustee of it. In 2011 he was a featured commentator in Tony Palmer's film Gustav Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter (BBC TV 2011). He has published many articles on aspects of Holst’s music for many magazines and journals. In 2013 he published a monograph Gustav Holst and India and in 2014 he published Gustav Holst: The Planets Suite, New Light on a Famous Work, for Sky Dance Press, UK.

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