holst archive project


Imogen Holst (Copyright: Nigel Luckhurst)

Hello all and welcome to the blog of the Holst Archive Project.

The Britten-Pears Foundation has been awarded a grant by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme, and over the next 11 months or so we will be getting on with the exciting (and challenging) job of cataloguing the archives of the composer and musicologist Imogen Holst – as well as the papers that Imogen collected on her father Gustav Holst. The collection as a whole documents a remarkable father-daughter relationship in twentieth-century music; yet Imogen (or Imo as she was called by all who knew her) deserves further attention as a composer and music educator in her own right. We hope that by making her papers accessible to researchers both in the UK and abroad we will go some way to broadening knowledge of Imogen’s work beyond her already recognised role as the musical assistant of Benjamin Britten.

Judging from the number of enquiries the Britten-Pears archive has received in recent months, it seems that there already has been something of a resurgence of interest in Imogen’s music among musicians and musicologists!  However, Imogen’s life and papers will have broad appeal to a  variety of researchers, including those with interests in English folk dancing and music, women’s roles during World War II, music education and amateur music-making, and the role of women in twentieth-century British music.

My posts over the next few months will chart the progress of the project, highlight some of the brilliant records in this exceptional collection, and look at aspects of Imogen’s life and work. In the meantime, if you would like to know more about the project, visit our About page above and for more details on the collection visit The Holst Archive. You can subscribe by  email via the link in the sidebar, and of course we would love feedback in the form of thoughts/comments/insights on any of the posts.

In the past I have worked predominantly with pre-twentieth-century records, so one of the joys of working with this collection is dealing with the papers of a figure within living memory.  This brings with it all sorts of advantages (and disadvantages – more on that later), but as an archivist it is a wonderful thing to be able to hear the voice of the creator of a collection. And I can think of no better introduction to Imogen and her work than the recording of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that Imogen made in 1972. If you don’t have time or are unable to listen, here are the items Imogen decided she would take with her to her ‘desert island’:

Choice of one/favourite track to take to the desert island: Rondo by Purcell

Choice of favourite book: Reverend Francis Kilvert, Diary 1870-1879 by Rev Francis Kilvert

Choice of one luxury object to take: spy-glass!

Julie-Ann , Project Archivist