Some of Elizabeth’s music is soon to appear in an Anthology of Sacred Music by Women Composers to be published in three volumes by Multitude of Voyces.  The first, SATB Anthems will include the already published item Sing unto the Lord, the second, Upper Voices Anthems will contain the hitherto unpublished Te lucis ante terminum, which is the second movement of An English Day-Book, most recently recorded in 2010 on Signum Classics, while Volume 3, Liturgical Works will include the Festal Te Deum, commissioned by St. Matthews Church, Northampton, manuscript of which was discovered only last year, 

Her music will also feature in a concert to be organised by The Peter Warlock Society on 16 May next year at St. Nicholas Church in recognition of the close friendship between Elizabeth and Peter, made clear by the recently discovered letters of his.   

John Alabaster

Rooks Nest House, was a beloved home to both E M Forster and Elizabeth Poston.  He lived there with his widowed mother during his young, formative years of four to fourteen and there, educated at home, he set deep roots, exploring the neighbouring countryside and developing an interest in gardening – including growing tall red poppies – especially enjoying identifying the local flora. In his earliest known teenage writings he said ‘the surroundings of the house were altogether very pretty, first and foremost the fine view’.  His affection for his home was profound since it represented stability and security and so he was distraught when he had to leave it to be educated away, first in a boarding school at Eastbourne and finally as a day-boy at Tonbridge in 1893. His mother had socialised with the local gentry including Charles Poston and family, recently arrived at a nearby large Georgian Manor, called ‘Mallows’ but later renamed ‘Highfield’.  The family made a lasting impression on the 7-year old Forster.

Charles’s wife died in 1900 and he remarried – the much younger Clementine – whose beauty and gentle personality captivated Forster when he travelled down from Cambridge and visited Highfield briefly in 1907.  Clementine’s first-born, Elizabeth was just a year old at the time, but as a child she later had an indirect acquaintance with him through inheriting one of his dolls, christened ‘Morgan’!  To be truthful the doll was not very popular and, when given away to a needy neighbouring child, involved a certain amount of tossing to and fro over the garden hedge! 

Forster’s Howards End, published a few years later, in 1910, reflected very strongly his connection with the world of his childhood.  In its first few pages he reiterates, ‘the views marvellous – views westwards to the high ground’.  There is also a clear connection between his fictional characters and aspects of people he knew in his youth, including Clementine (who we can identify in Howards End as Ruth Wilcox, the first wife of Charles). 

Among the works missing from Elizabeth Poston’s archive of music that was left at Rooks Nest House, after she died in 1987, was her Concertino da Camera on a Theme of Martin Peerson, written for early instruments in 1957 and based on a transcription by her friend, Marylin Wailes; all that could be found among her papers was a single MS title-page.  The work, described by a critic as new wine poured successfully into old bottles, had been dedicated to Marylin and her London Consort of ancient instruments.

Elizabeth thought that Marylin’s copy of her music was the only one in existence when, in August 1985, she asked for its return in order to add it to her ‘National Archive’, explaining, ‘I am trying very hard to put together writing I count of any value & leave it tidily while I am still alive & not forgetting or gaga!’   There is no evidence that the music was actually returned before Elizabeth died but a copy (perhaps Marylin’s) did, at some time, get into the possession of Faber Music and, in January 1968, was passed on to David Munrow, the well-known enthusiast for early music and ancient musical instruments.  After Munrow’s untimely death in 1976 that copy was given by his widow to the virtuoso recorder player, John Turner.  He, finally, with the kind permission of the copyright-holder, Simon Campion, has now had it published by Peacock Press, (PJT 201) and a copy has been safely deposited at the British Library with the rest of Elizabeth’s extant manuscripts. He has also recorded the work on the Prima Facie label (PFCD 005) with Richard Simpson (oboe d’amore), Richard Tunniclife (viola d’amore) and Ian Thompson (harpsichord).  

The piece has the unique position of being the particular one Elizabeth chose when asked to lecture on the subject of composition; now that the music has been found and printed we can follow more clearly what she described with such enthusiasm.  

John Alabaster

 

After a decade of work on the Poston papers, John Alabaster has produced a glossy book encapsulating much of the previous works. As the title suggests, it is a full list of works published or not, set in a biographical context.  Though more expensive than earlier subsidised works, it is for anyone interested in her or neglected female composers of her era. It is available at Lulu.com page http://www.lulu.com/shop/john-alabaster/elizabeth-poston-catalogue-of-works-with-biographical-context/paperback/product-23663053.html#expand_text

 

This year marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this country and the anniversary has been celebrated widely in the media and in the gay community. We cannot let this pass without wondering what difference this would have made to E M Forster's life and work.

Forced to conceal his sexuality in his conventional, middle-class family and judgmental society, his literary expression may also have been repressed. ‘Maurice’, his only attempt to write about same sex love, was written in 1914 but only published posthumously, in 1971.  Apparently this was his wish.

Said to be modest and retiring by nature, he would not have wanted to upset or even outrage; he evidently lacked the audacity of the Bloomsbury circle with whom he was friendly or maybe was more philosophical about his situation.

His last novel ‘A Passage to India’ was published in 1924, when he was 45, and for the rest of his life - he died aged 92 in 1970 - he produced non-fiction and made broadcasts. He maintained a high reputation, was nicknamed the ‘holy man of letters’, but despite this was not awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Perhaps he would have been had his imagination not been fettered by the law of the land. What did he think when it was reformed three years before he died? Did he even care?