KS2 Music Quiz
Ten Pieces - Gustav Holst
Holst is probably most well-known for The Planet Suite but what else do you know about the composer?

Ten Pieces - Gustav Holst

This KS2 Music quiz is inspired by the BBC Ten Pieces, which you can find at BBC Bitesize, and it's all about the British composer, Gustav Holst

Due to his name, many people think that Gustav Holst was not British. In fact he was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1874. His family was of mixed British, Latvian, German and Swedish ancestry with at least one professional musician in each of the previous three generations. Music was definitely in Holst's blood! In addition to composing Holst played the trombone and was also a teacher, He was a pioneer in the musical education of women and was director of music at St Paul's Girls' School. Several of his students there went on to have successful careers of their own as musicians.

Gustav Holst is most famously known as the man behind The Planets. But let's find out a bit more about him and his other works!

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  1. In which British spa town was he born, in 1874?
    His birthplace now houses an excellent and interesting museum
  2. Which were Holst's original instruments, in his own right as a performing musician?
    He did not become a concert pianist due to neuritis in his right arm, but as a young man he used to walk 15+ miles (~25km) each way to play the village organ at Wyck Rissington in the Cotswolds
  3. His first work was performed in 1893 while he was still in his teens. What was it?
    It was apparently entitled Lansdowne Castle, or The Sorcerer of Shrewsbury (which certainly rings many of the right G&S 'bells')
  4. Apparently, the guardians of Holst's estate and heritage filed a lawsuit in 2006, complaining that the score for a blockbusting movie had clearly 'borrowed' identifiable elements from his Mars: which, allegedly, was the offending film?
    This intriguing story then appears to have petered out. (It is by no means the only such one ~ though there appear thankfully to be no others involving Holst ~ as there are only so many notes for composers to make use of!)
  5. Which of his instruments did he principally play to earn extra money while studying at the Royal College of Music?
    One can (perhaps with slight difficulty) picture him playing in seaside holiday bands and orchestra pits ~ all useful experience, the income from which (such as it was) helped pay for him to sit audience-side at the opera and elsewhere
  6. Which of these was his correct full name, as born and baptised?
    In broad terms his lineage was of German-speaking musicians from the Baltic Coast. He dropped the 'von' around the time of the First World War, since it marked him out as more of an apparent 'enemy' than he ever actually was
  7. Which of the following British composers were influential teachers and/or friends of Holst, during and beyond his period of study at the Royal College?
    If you look at the Music List for any respectable British cathedral or choral parish church, or indeed for national occasions such as Remembrance and coronations, you will find these names cropping up repeatedly (often alongside Elgar, a broad contemporary ~ but who tended to work independently of the Establishment, for various reasons we needn't go into here)
  8. Another movement from Holst's Planets, Jupiter, contains the magnificent slow theme also known widely as the tune for the hymn I vow to Thee, my Country. In hymnals and organ-lofts it is known by the name of which East Anglian village, where Holst had a house?
    Cranham (Ans.1) meanwhile is his tune for In the Bleak Midwinter ~ the version usually sung by whole congregations (the choir version with solos is by Harold Darke)
  9. Besides the neuritic arm, Holst's health was dogged, all his life, by two other problems: what were they?
    ... Yes, alas, despite all that healthful walking in his youth. But despite all this, he lived to almost twice the age of the likes of Mozart and Schubert, dying only in his 60th year. Meanwhile he was also a teetotaller and vegetarian; the neuritis led him more often to conduct left-handed (as in the statue at his birthplace)
  10. What was the title of Holst's later opera, from which he also extracted an orchestral ballet suite?
    Each of our 'distractors' (Ans. 1-3) is a genuine, and roughly contemporary, work by another composer

Author: Ian Miles

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