Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



Gustav Holst and the Clarion
Ian Bullock

In Fellowship is Life (pp49-50) Denis Pye mentions that the young Gustav Holst the composer best remembered for The Planets was involved with the Clarion. He was also a formidable cyclist though whether he ever rode with the Clarion CC we don't (or at least I don't) know.

Below are some information and extracts from his biographers Holst's daughter, Imogen Holst's Gustav Holst: A Biography 2nd ed 1969 and Michael Short's Gustav Holst: The Man and His Music OUP 1990

Before he moved to London, Holst lived in Cheltenham:

'he would sometimes walk or cycle the 97 miles from London to Cheltenham with his trombone slung on his back. Occasionally he would take the opportunity of practising the instrument while resting during the journey, to the astonishment of the farmers on whose land he sat' [Short p 22]

'Holst was asthmatic and Short speculates that he got interested in cycling via articles in the Cheltenham music magazine The Minim, which also carried pieces on socialism.' (p 29)

In London he joined the Hammersmith Socialist Society whose 'guru' was William Morris – and formed the Hammersmith Socialist Choir where he met Isobel who he later married.

'He was also occasionally to be seen perched on a cart playing a harmonium, while being dragged round the streets of Hammersmith by a group of enthusiastic distributors of socialist propaganda.' (Short p 30)

He included his own song 'Two Brown Eyes' in a 'Grand Evening Concert' by the Hammersmith Socialist Choir concert in Feb 1898. The 2nd movement of his 'Cotswold Symphony' (July 1900) was an elegy to the memory of William Morris.

In 1908, according to Imogen Holst ( p 32), he was ill and ordered by his doctor to take a holiday in a warm climate. So he went cycling in the Algerian desert!

And according to Short (p 84) in the following summer of 1909 he cycled to Steyning to stay with friends and riding with no headgear fainted with heat exhaustion. He was persuaded to take the train back. It seems amazing that he could survive the heat of the Sahara only to be floored by the weather in West Sussex!

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