Music in the archives

For this year’s Heritage Open Days we are celebrating creativity in the archives, including a chance to experience the sound of the music that would have been enjoyed at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall in the sixteenth century.

Thorndon and Ingatestone Halls, both near Brentwood, were owned by the Petre family. A number of surviving sources tell us about the musical instruments owned by the family and the music being performed in the household. Visitors to ERO on Heritage Open Day will be treated to something of the experience of the Petre family and their guests with live performances throughout the day.

Old Thondon Hall Walker map

Map showing Thorndon Hall by John Walker, 1598 (D/DP P5)

Ingatestone Hall

Drawing of Ingatestone Hall (undated) (I/Mb 196/1/30)

We are fortunate to have two music books from the household of John, 1st Baron Petre (1549-1614), which include sacred church music and secular music such as songs and dances. They are known as part books, as they only show one part of the composition, in this case the part for the bass singers.

John, 1st Lord Petre

John, 1st Lord Petre (1549-1614), owner of the music books Gaudeamus will base their performance on – from the Ingatestone Hall website

In this post we will share some sneak previews of some of the choral music which will be performed at our open day, and in another post soon we will investigate the musical instruments owned by the family.

John Petre music book

Both books have the name John Petre embossed in gold on their front covers (D/DP Z6/1 and D/DP Z6/2)

The sacred music included covers the whole Tudor period, from the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509) all the way through to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1601) and beyond into the early Stuart period. This music is all in Latin, the language of the Roman Catholic Church. This perhaps reflects the fact that the Petre family remained staunchly Catholic throughout the upheavals of the English Reformation (and somehow all managed to keep their heads). Despite writing in Latin, several of the composers featured in the part book served as Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, the sovereign’s own choir. Despite being a Protestant, Elizabeth I is known to have a fondness for Latin church music.

To give you a little taster of this beautiful music, we thought we’d share a few previews of some of the pieces that Gaudeamus will be performing:

Ne irascaris Domine is by William Byrd (c.1540-1623), the best known composer associated with the Petre family. Like several other pieces which will be performed, it is a motet – a piece of choral music with several parts to it. Dating from 1589, its Latin title means ‘Be not angry O Lord’. The piece may have contained a political message for Protestant England, as it turned away from the Catholic church. (Read more about this motet here.)

William Byrd.jpg

William Byrd

Byrd was born in London, but his family had origins in Ingatestone. He was a pupil of the great composer Thomas Tallis, and became a major figure in the world of Elizabethan music. From the 1570s he became increasingly involved in the world of English Catholics, and at times was suspended from his position at the Chapel Royal, his movements were restricted and his house subject to search.

Byrd moved to Stondon Massey in Essex in about 1594, apparently to be nearer his patron, Sir John Petre. He lived the last 30 years or so of his life there, and it is thought he was buried there alongside his wife in 1623. His motet Ne irascaris Domine is included in the Petre part books, and was performed for a special recording for us a few months ago by Southend-based chamber choir Gaudeamus:

Ave Dei Patris filia is by Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521), one of the foremost composers of the early Tudor period. Its title means ‘Hail, daughter of God’, is typical of music before the Reformation, made up of complex, interweaving parts. You can get a little taste of it by listening to the extract from track 7 here.

Fayrfax played an important role in the music of the royal court, as well as in noble households. He was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal by 1497, and led the Chapel Royal in Henry VIII’s state visit to France in 1520 known as the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’.

 

Lamentations is by Robert White (c.1538-1574), much of whose music was probably written for a young Elizabeth I. The 5 part Lamentations is a good example of the sort of intellectual Latin music that appealed to Elizabeth, a substantial composition lasting 22 minutes in all (Gaudeamus will be singing the first and last parts only).

White was probably born in Holborn, London, and was the son of an organ builder. As a child he was a chorister at Trinity College, Cambridge, and he stayed there as an adult singer. He took a Bacherlorship in Music from the University of Cambridge, before becoming Master of the Choristers in Ely and then at Chester Cathedral. In 1570 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers in Westminster Abbey. He died aged only about 36, along with the rest of his family, during an outbreak of plague in 1574.

Join us for our Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10 September 2016, 10am-4pm, to enjoy performances of all of these pieces and lots more, including a chance to see some of the treasures of our art and photography collections, and for fun family activities. You can find all of the details here.

Document of the Month, June 2016: Psalmodia Evangelica, c.1789

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

 (A14439, part)

The document of the month for June is the first volume of a two-volume publication entitled Psalmodia Evangelica, ‘a complete set of psalm and hymn tunes for public worship’, published in St Paul’s Churchyard, London by Thomas Williams of Clerkenwell Green in about 1789.  It is a charming volume of psalm and hymn tunes which opens a window into protestant and non-conformist worship at the time of Jane Austen. The volume once belonged to Stebbing Independent Chapel (later Congregational Church), one of three music books we took into our custody at the beginning of April this year.  Presumably, it was used in the worship of that church.

IMG_0134 1080

The title page proudly claims that it contains ‘a greater number and variety than any former collection’.  There are some tunes which worshipers today would instantly recognise; such as ‘Salisbury’, the tune named by Wesley himself for his Easter Hymn Christ the Lord is Risen today, Hallelujah, or ‘Helmsley’, Lo he comes with clouds descending.  But there are many more which have since fallen out of use.

IMG_0135 1080

Interestingly, the music is ‘correctly adapted for three voices [instead of the usual four found in hymn books today], and figured for the organ’; the main tune is in the middle, with a contra part on top harmonising above and below the melody and a figured bass below.

“Figured bass” is a common feature of eighteen century instrumental music, where the “continuo” part played by ‘cello, bass and bassoon, would also be played on an organ or harpsichord with chords above, indicated by figures under the part rather in the manner of guitar chords indicated in a popular song today.  For example, where there is no number, a standard chord with the root note at the bottom would be played, whereas a 6 indicates a chord “in first inversion” with the third note at the bottom and the root note on top, i.e. six notes above the bass.

At the beginning of the volume, there is an introduction which offers a guide to performance expressed in language both redolent of the period and seemingly indicative of a non-conformist preoccupation with improvement. It begins:

Most people are sensible of the difference between a regular and just performance of Psalmody in divine worship, & that confusion and dissonance too often heard instead of it; though few, comparatively, will bestow any share of their own time & attention to apply a remedy…Should those who have already learned to sing condescend to look over these pages, it is not impossible that many of them may be either informed of reminded of some things tending to their improvement.

The Psalmodia includes advice for singers, including, crucially, remembering which part they are singing

The Psalmodia includes advice for singers, including, crucially, remembering which part they are singing

For example, in section 4, OF GRACEFUL SINGING, ‘the following directions are submitted to the reader’s consideration’.

1) ‘Let your gesture be decent and manly;’ which seems to point to an all-male choir made up of men and boy trebles.

3) ‘Chuse the Part that best suits you…The Treble requires delicacy, without tameness: The counter a peculiar sweetness: The Tenor a medium between effeminate softness and masculine robustness: And the Bass gravity, pomp, solidity of voice, and bold expression.’

6) ‘Express your words with all the politeness possible, without affectation; imitate the Orator rather than the Clown.’

The Psalmodia will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout June 2016.

Document of the Month, December 2015: Byrd’s Song

Archivist Lawrence Barker talks us through his choice for December’s Document of the Month.

This month’s document is a remarkable music book surviving from Elizabethan England (D/DP Z6/1). It is part of the collection of the Petre family, who lived at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall. The Petre family remained Catholic throughout the upheavals of the English Reformation, as Catholics were increasingly marginalised in a newly Protestant country.

The book contains mostly motets (short pieces of sacred choral music) by English composers such as Thomas Tallis, Robert Wight, Robert Fairfax and William Byrd, who flourished in the mid-16th century. From 1595 Byrd lived nearby in Stondon Massey, and is known to have spent time at Ingatestone Hall. There are also a few pieces by other European composers such as Palestrina and Philippe de Monte.

The book will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout December 2015, open to one of Byrd’s finest motets, Ne irascaris Domine (Be not angry, O Lord).

Part of William Byrd's motet Ne Irasc

Part of William Byrd’s motet Ne irascaris Domine in a sixteenth century music book from the Petre collection (D/DP Z6/1)

To bring the music in this book to life, a modern edition of this piece was recently performed by Essex choir Gaudeamus.

The music was written to be performed a cappella, i.e. in the ‘chapel style’, sung by voices unaccompanied by instruments. Singers today use a music score showing all the different parts of the music (you can see an example of the piece shown above, Ne irascaris Domine, here), but in Tudor times each voice sang from its own part book showing only their line. This book contains only the bass part (for the lowest voice) for pieces which would have had five parts altogether. The question arises: what happened to the other part books which seemingly have not survived?

The front cover of the book has the name John Petre embossed upon it in gold, suggesting that the book belonged to the first Baron Petre himself (1549-1613). The music seems to be a personal selection and includes some of the choice pieces from the golden age of English Roman Catholic church music, such as Tallis’s Lamentations, the same by Robert Wight, as well as many of the great motets by Byrd.

D/DP Z6/1

The front cover of the book is embossed with John Petre’s name, the first baron Petre, suggesting that it was his personal book

There is not an exact date for the book but none of the music in it dates from after 1591. Much of Byrd’s music, including this motet, was published during his lifetime; indeed, he and Thomas Tallis were granted a publishing monopoly on music by Elizabeth I. This book, however, is not a printed, published edition but is hand written. It is a substantial book and it must have taken someone many, many hours to complete.

The texts are all in Latin which suggests that the book was written for use in Roman Catholic services.  Much of the music dates from earlier in the 16th century and some of it might have been written originally for the Catholic queen Mary Tudor.  In the case of the pieces by Byrd, however, the music was probably written to be performed in the Chapel Royal for the Protestant Elizabeth I, who seems to have retained a ‘High Anglican’ taste for Latin church music. Despite being a Catholic, Byrd was part of the choir of the Chapel Royal and would have sworn an oath when he joined in 1572 recognising Elizabeth as head of the English Church.

Most of the music in the book is choral, but there are also a few instrumental pieces which would have been played on viols, stringed instruments that look somewhat like those of the modern violin family. As well as singing there would have been instrumental music in the Petre household; there is a suggestion that John Petre himself may have played the lute, as an inventory of 1608 lists ‘my Lord’s lute’ among other instruments including an organ, double virginals and a chest of viols.  It also lists various sheet music described as ‘Mr Birds bookes’, including a set of books in five parts, described as ‘thick bookes with red covers not printed but prict [pricked – or handwritten]’. These music books likely include the ones that today are at ERO.

D/DP E2/1

An inventory of 1608 recording pieces of sheet music and various musical instruments owned by the Petre family (D/DP E2/1)

The music book and the inventory show that the Petre family indulged in some serious music-making, a point further evidenced in the account books that survive for this period showing that Byrd was frequently involved.  For example, the accounts book for 1589-1590 (D/DP A21) shows that Christmas 1589 must have been a merry affair for the Petre family involving lots of eating, drinking and music making.  William Byrd was fetched from London by the ‘sadler’ Edward Graye on Boxing Day (below), and there were five other musicians from London ‘playing upon the violins’ (i.e. the set or ‘chest’ of viols) who stayed until Twelfth Night.

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Ingatestone Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Thorndon Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

The motet by Byrd featured above, Ne irascaris Domine, was published in 1589 as part of Cantiones Sacrae I (Sacred Songs I). The music portrays a dark time for English Catholics when, following the Spanish Armada in 1588, many Catholics like the Petres and Byrd were persecuted for their faith.  This motet, like many others in the collection, is in two parts.

The first part starts, ‘Be not angry, O Lord, remember no longer our iniquity. We are all your people’ (Isaiah 64:9).  Was this a recusant Catholic’s subliminal plea to Elizabeth herself which she would have heard when it was sung to her in the Chapel Royal?  Significantly, only three years later in 1592, a charge of recusancy brought against Byrd was dropped ‘by order of the Queen’.

The second part of the motet is more desolate: ‘Thy holy city is made desolate.  Zion is made desolate.  Jerusalem is forsaken’ (Isaiah 64:10).  Of course, ‘Jerusalem’ was then, and has been many times since, a symbolic name for England.  The motet gives a beautiful example of polyphony, where melodic lines interweave with each other yet maintain perfect harmony, a common feature of sacred music of this period.  Byrd creates a marked effect, however, by changing from the general polyphony at the words Sion deserta facta est (Zion is made desolate) (approx. 05:30).  After a short pause, all voices sing in solemn chords as in a hymn.  When the polyphony resumes, the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘desolata est’ over and over again until the end, as can be seen in the manuscript showing the bass part.

Part of the motet where the choir repeats 'Zion desolata est' - Jerusalem is desolated

Part of the motet where the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem desolata est’ – Jerusalem is desolated

Music such as this would have been part of a very specific, even élite soundscape.  The majority of ordinary Elizabethans probably never knew Byrd’s music unless they were servants in Lord Petre’s household or Byrd’s, or happened upon it when attending a service in a cathedral, such as Lincoln where Byrd’s music is known to have been performed.  Even among the élite, much of Byrd’s music would have been exclusive, limited to a few patrons.  Byrd himself made no bones about the intellectuality of the music itself. However, he did publish much of it, and that would have increased its accessibility to those who came to know of it, could afford to buy it and were able to perform it. 

Today, with recorded sound, we have much greater access to all kinds of music.  Recorded music is ubiquitous, a constant background noise in shops, pubs, or buses via fellow passengers’ headphones.

We are fortunate that the written music survives, as we can recreate the sound of Byrd’s music, more or less, and in doing so transport ourselves back to the soundscape of Elizabethan England, or even specifically that corner of Elizabethan Essex where Byrd spent Christmas in 1589.  Almost everything that Byrd wrote has now been recorded, some of it many times.  If we lived in Ingatestone today, we would only have to load our CDs or search YouTube to listen to Byrd 24/7 if we so desired.

The music performed by Gaudeamus has been transposed up to a higher pitch to accommodate a mixed rather than all-male choir.  Nevertheless, being sung in a church that partly dates from the medieval period, we can imagine that hearing it resembles the musical experience of our predecessors.  However, there are limits to how far we can experience historic soundscapes.

Today, with recorded sound, we can capture much more precisely the noises around us.  The Essex Sound and Video Archive collects and preserves recordings such as this performance for future generations to enjoy.  For our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, we will be making many of our recordings available online.  Why not listen to this piece while sitting in the grounds of Ingatestone Hall, or Stondon Massey, to imagine what the song would have sounded like to its composer?

For further information on You Are Hear and how you can contribute your own recordings, look at our blog page or visit our website.

William Byrd's name at the end of the motet

William Byrd’s name at the end of the motet

What is heritage?

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Project Officer for You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place takes a step back to muse on what heritage is all about.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive has been granted £5000 from the Essex Heritage Trust to contribute towards our project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place – subject to receiving the rest of the funding. The grant has been awarded under the Trust’s Restoration / Conservation fund, as we intend to put the money towards purchasing equipment to digitise some of our sound and video recordings. Through digitisation, we will preserve these irreplaceable recordings, which are at risk of deterioration or loss due to obsolescent formats. Digitisation is also the first step towards making them more easily available for you to enjoy, from the comfort of your own homes.

The Trust’s approval demonstrates the trustees’ broad appreciation for the county’s assets, not limiting themselves to more obvious historical treasures such as buildings and gardens. Rather, they have recognised that the sound and video recordings we hold are equally covered by their mission statement ‘to help safeguard or preserve for the benefit of the public such land, buildings, objects, or records that may be illustrative of, or significant to, the history of the County or which enhance an understanding of the characteristics and traditions of the County’.

The bulk of the funding for the You Are Hear project will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, if we are successful with our second-round Your Heritage grant application.

Can you spot the common denominator? The assets worthy of preservation and the motivations of the financiers are all linked to heritage.

So what is ‘heritage’? What qualifies as forming part of our heritage? Is it only to do with ‘old stuff’?

To me, heritage is about the foundation of a shared culture that demonstrates who we are, based on a common history, geography, or society. It includes historical treasures, certainly, as evidence of our past. But I think it can encompass much more than that. We should also consider what should be captured from today’s culture, which will form part of the next generation’s heritage. This is particularly important with sound and video archives, where careful planning is necessary in order to preserve recordings that might otherwise be lost.

You Are Hear aims to digitise many of our recordings and make them available, but also to actively encourage people to develop their sense of heritage within the county of Essex: building a sense of place based on the sounds and moving images that represent the county. We hold recordings related to our industrial past, such as a speech made by Marchese Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio, who built the factory in Chelmsford that enables the city to proudly proclaim itself as ‘the birthplace of radio’ on the signs as you enter its boundaries (SA 27/9/1).

Marconi disc label

We have an oral history collection about the development of Harlow as a New Town, revealing the planning that went into it, and what life was actually like for the earliest residents (SA 22). We have film footage of Morris dancers from local bands at festivals, on tour, and even at a wedding (VA 30). We have recordings of mayor-making ceremonies in Chelmsford (SA 7/571/1), Colchester (SA 8/5/12/1), and Southend (SA 20/1/5/1), capturing the ritual and dignity of local government. We have the commentary from the famous Colchester United victory over Leeds United in their fifth-round FA Cup match in 1971, a permanent reminder of one moment of glory in our county’s sporting heritage (SA 27/12/1). These recordings all demonstrate different aspects of our shared past, evoking pride and attachment to the county.

But we also have a copy of Blur’s 1995 album ‘The Great Escape’ (Acc. SA291). We have a recording of a Tilbury-Juxta-Clare parish meeting (SA 24/1001/1). We have a recording of pedestrian crossing beeps, the escalator in the BHS store, and general noise of the Southend high street in 2008 (Acc. SA501). Do these also qualify as ‘heritage’?

Why shouldn’t they? They are part of the county’s diverse and continually evolving culture. They capture the everyday – those moments that together build a realistic picture of what it is like to live in Essex. In a hundred years, what will listeners make of Blur’s music? Or the noise of an urban landscape? Historians face the challenge of trying to uncover what life was like in a former era. We have the opportunity now to give future historians a helping hand by preserving as much of our current heritage as possible. We can also help to validate the diverse culture of today’s inhabitants by recognising it as worthy of long-term preservation.

Has this made you think of some of your own sound or video recordings, which might be of interest to people today or in the future? Please do let us know: we would be delighted to help make your personal heritage part of the county’s shared culture. You can also get in touch with us for more information about any of the recordings mentioned.

You can listen to extracts from selected recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive on SoundCloud:

Recording of the Month, December 2014: Roger Smith and his Talking Guitar

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

Acc. SA586

For our December recording I have resisted the temptation to select one of our many recordings which relate to Christmas. However, I feel we should end the year with a bit of fun so I have chosen a remarkable performance of musical skill and ingenuity.

Roger Smith spent his retirement living quietly in Heybridge. Previous to that he had travelled the world as a musician playing the steel guitar. As well as being able to play the pedal steel (or Hawaiian) guitar, he also built his own version of the instrument designed to imitate the human voice. We know that Roger Smith performed with Felix Mendelsohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders in the late 1940s but, unfortunately, he died before we were able to talk to him in detail about his career. If you have more information, please let us know.

This recording is taken from an instantaneous disc recorded in 1948 with the title of Nit Wit Serenade.

Eric Clapton may have been compared to God in the 1960s for his abilities as a guitarist, but could he perform the feats achieved by Roger Smith?

In search of Mars

Our newest Archivist Lawrence Barker pins down where composer Gustav Holst wrote his famous Planets suite…

It was about a hundred years ago that the composer Gustav Holst started work on his masterpiece, The Planets suite, and at the same time, to spend weekends at Thaxted.  He started with Mars “The bringer of war” shortly before the First World War broke out, and much has been made of the coincidence.  However, apparently Holst always denied that he had had a premonition of the horrors of war that were to ensue.

Like many I am sure, I had assumed that the house in the middle of Thaxted, identified now by a blue plaque, was where he wrote The Planets. But, as the plaque confirms, he only moved into that house in 1917 after he had completed the work.  Before then, he rented what his daughter Imogen described as a ‘three-hundred-year-old cottage on the top of a hill…two miles from Thaxted’[1] in the small hamlet of Monk Street, which had been previously occupied by the writer S.L. Bensusan.  It was there that he wrote Mars.

Sadly, the cottage no longer exists but a photograph does exist of the interior (which you can see here) showing Holst’s wife Isobel sitting by the fire and possibly taken by Holst himself.  The grand piano also visible in the left foreground is recognizably the same as that which Holst bought for the cottage which now takes pride of place in the Holst birthplace museum at Cheltenham, with a score of The Planets placed on the music stand and a note claiming that it was composed on that piano.  Holst bought it because it had a very light action which suited his neuritis.

At the time, Holst called himself Von Holst as is confirmed by his entry in the 1911 census.  Imogen describes how he helped out with the music in the church and was affectionately called ‘our Mr. Von’ by singers in the church choir.  However, with the onset of the First World War, neighbours became suspicious of him walking around the district and asking questions about the history of the area.  He was reported to the local police who carried out an investigation under the terms of the Aliens Restriction Order; and you can read the outcome reported below in a book of police investigations of those with German associations (J/P 12/6, 1914-18) kept by the ERO.  Usefully, you can see that the book states his address at the time as ‘Hill House, Monk Street, Thaxted’.

JP-12-6 watermarked

Holst later took steps to have ‘Von’ formally removed from his name and paid for a change in the deed poll.  However, ironically, as Imogen relates, he was not entitled to call himself ‘Von’ Holst in any case as the title was initiated as an affectation by his father in the 1880s to increase his kudos by advertising himself as a German music teacher.

As the cottage has disappeared, I thought I would try and find its exact location by carrying out a typical house-history search.

Imogen Holst described the cottage in a small pamphlet about her father and Thaxted published in 1974:

The cottage dated from 1614; it had a thatched roof, and open fire-places, and a wonderful view across meadows and willow trees to the church spire in the distance.[2]

The NW volume of the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments for Essex has an entry for such a cottage on the Dunmow Road, East side:

(37). Cottage, about 1½ m. S. by E. of the church, was built apparently in 1614, and has a modern wing at the back and a low modern addition at the N. end.  On the W. font are three gabled dormer windows; the middle window is dated 1614.

The map shows it to be located on the right going towards Thaxted just before the road bends to the left into the hamlet of Monk Street.

The cottage was owned by Bensusan, and this is confirmed on the 1910 Finance Act map based on OS 25″ 2nd ed. sheet XIV.16 (ERO reference A/R 1/3/14), which shows the cottage to be plot 743 (79 on OS map) with the ownership of Bensusan confirmed in pencil on the map; that is, the second cottage past the turning to Sibley’s Green to the South and just before the left bend into Monk Street to the North on the Thaxted road (now the B184).  The accompanying reference book (A/R 2/5/10) shows on pg. 72 that assessment no. 743 was a vacant cottage (extent 1/3 Rod) owned by Samuel Bensusan (of The Brick House, Gt Easton) in Monk Street.  This was the only cottage in Monk Street belonging to Bensusan.

Armed with the name of the cottage, I carried out a search on Seax for any other documentation that might survive about it and found two bundles of documents.  The first (D/F 35/8/308) concerned ‘Hill Cottage’, Monk St., which underwent repairs, including the thatch, in 1924.  It was leased to Mrs Kennedy and correspondence contained in an envelope dated 1924 referred to the ‘Monk St property belonging to S. L. Bensusan Esq.’.  The other bundle (D/F 35/8/342) includes an agreement between M. Kennedy and L. Mackinnon re. the let of Hill Cottage, Monk St. in 1926 which identifies the plot as No.79 on the OS map (see the 1879 edition below).

Holst's cottage Monk st - no 79

So, there can be little doubt that the cottage in which Holst worked on Mars, the bringer of war, just before the start of the First World War, was on the right just past the right turn to Sibley’s Green and before the road bends round the left.  The cottage was still there in 1948 according to 25″ OS map but by 1977 on the OS map TL 6128 it had disappeared, although the plot still seems to be intact despite road widening and the building of new by-pass to Monk Street, now a left turn off the road.



[1] Holst, Imogen (1938). Gustave Holst: a biography. London: Faber and Faber

[2] Holst, Imogen (1974). Gustav Holst and Thaxted. Thaxted: Thaxted bulletin (later published as a separate pamphlet)

Recording of the Month March 2014: The Essex Youth Orchestra

The next monthly highlight from our Sound Archivist Martin Astell…

Essex Youth Orchestra – Wand of Youth (SA 10/1/1/1/1)

For March we have some music. Our choice this month is, we believe, the earliest recording of the Essex Youth Orchestra. The orchestra was formed in 1957 as part of the County Youth Service of Essex County Council and by the time this recording was made, in 1960, they had already made successful tours of West Berlin and Essex and been invited to tour Holland.  In subsequent years the orchestra visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Italy, the USA and Canada, and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, Snape Maltings, and at the Bath Festival both accompanied by and conducted by Yehudi Menuhin.

Youth Service Volume 8 Number 4 April 1968

New works have been written for or dedicated to the Essex Youth Orchestra by composers such as Alan Rawsthorne, Elizabeth Maconchy and Bernard Stevens, and former members have gone on to perform with any number of major symphony orchestras. Membership of the orchestra was open to any young person aged under 21 who was resident in Essex or attended an Essex school or college.

The Essex Youth Orchestra continues to the present day along much the same lines. You can find more details here.

The four recordings with our reference SA 10/1/1/1/1 were made on April 19th 1960 by Pike Films on both sides of two 7″ 45rpm lacquer ‘instantaneous’ discs. The discs have pre-printed labels bearing the Pike Films logo with the details of the recordings being hand-written in ink. The first two sides contain recordings of The Impressario by Mozart and part of Dvorak’s Symphony No.4. However, we have chosen to feature the third side which contains the first section of Elgar’s Wand of Youth (Suite 1), which seems appropriate for a youth orchestra. The fourth side has parts 2 and 3 of Wand of Youth.

Media Types 004 - Lacquer disc close-up

We are told that Elgar, when in his fifties, decided to develop into full orchestral works a number of compositions he had made at the tender age of eleven to accompany a childhood play staged by him and his siblings. These resulted in two suites to which he gave the name Wand of Youth and he chose to give them the opus number 1 to indicate that they were, in fact, his earliest work.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive holds a series of recordings of the Essex Youth Orchestra as well as others from Colchester Youth Chamber Orchestra, Witham Choral Society and others. We also hold recordings of compositions by Essex-based composers from William Byrd to Alan Bullard. Details of all the recordings held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive can be found on the Essex Record Office online catalogue Seax.