Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Thaxted 1

Thaxted is in Essex, up close to the Suffolk border. It's one of the loveliest villages in England, and has one of the loveliest churches. But we'll come to that in due course...

Thaxted is also the name of a tune...

It's one of the great tunes- the radiant, open-hearted, slow melody of the second half of Holst's "Jupiter"- from the Planets Suite.

The tune was too good and singable not to have words set to it- so along came the lyricists- headed by imperial sentimentalist Cecil Spring Rice whose "I Vow To Thee My Country"- became a staple of school assemblies and girl guide jamborees and featured in the wedding of the century between Charles Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. It acquired the name Thaxted when Holst's friend Ralph Vaughan Williams included it in a collection of hymn tunes that came out in 1926. Hymn tunes need names; I don't know why. I guess it's easier for the vicar to tell the organist to "give us Thaxted", than to "give us the one that goes Pom pom-pom ti pom pom…"

Why Thaxted? Because Holst was living there at the time- and working alongside the vicar- Conrad Noel- who was doing all he could to turn the village into a maypole- dancing, William Morrisy, rural people's paradise. Legend says he flew the red flag from the steeple. If only that were true...

To be continued....
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