Composer Spotlight: Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst was a British composer who lived from 1874-1934. As a young man, Holst learned piano, violin, and trombone. However, he had poor eyesight, asthma, and neuritis, which made it difficult for him to perform, so he turned to composing.

One of Holst’s most famous compositions is The Planets Suite, which he worked on from 1913 to 1916, long before man explored outer space. The entire suite is nearly an hour long, and contains a movement about each planet (besides Earth). It is based on astrology rather than astronomy, and every movement is titled after the planet and characteristic of the corresponding with the Roman mythological figures: Mars, Bringer of War, Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity, and so on.

In 1921, some of the music from the Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity movement was borrowed and set to lyrics by Sir Cecil Spring Rice to become the British patriotic hymn, I Vow to Thee, My Country. You may have heard it sung in videos of British state occasions.

One of the other well-known parts of the Planets Suite is a rhythmic motive (or brief repeated melodic segment) from Mars: Bringer of War. Listen to it in the video below. Does it remind you of the Darth Vader and battle sequence themes from John Williams’ Star Wars scores? If so, you’re not alone! John Williams was heavily influenced by the Planets Suite when composing his music for Star Wars!

You can hear Holst’s Planet Suite live at Tiny Tots: Outer Space in October and November at locations all across the Denver metro area, but you’ll be hearing it unlike you’ve ever heard it before! We’ve redesigned the suite with kids aged 0-7 in mind. Come along with us to climb the mountains of Mars, spin like the rings around Saturn, and much more! Click here for more tickets and more info!

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