Gustav Holst | Compositions, The Music of Holst

(1931) The Bells

Around 1931, Holst was asked to compose music for a film which was to be called The Bells, based on a book by J.R. Ware entitled, "The Polish Jew" and adapted from Sir Henry Irving's original play. The directors wanted him to finish the score by the following month so that recording could start. The music was to contain, "a storm prelude, a wedding feast, and some dance music," and was to be written for small orchestra.

When he was done composing, the recording sessions took place, and Holst was very disappointed when the directors asked him to make changes in his score. He became even more upset when he viewed a private screening of the movie and could not hear anything that was recognizable in his music, with the recording and speakers both being so poor.

The film was scheduled to be released in 1931, but in the end it was sold off to an American company to be premiered in the USA. Mysteriously enough, The Bells was never released and neither the company nor film can be found. The scores that Holst wrote as well have disappeared, and Michael Short writes in his biography of Holst, "the only person who could remember them was an official of Associated Sound Films, who remembered a two track sequence in which a brass band and a pipe band, playing their own tunes, marched from different directions and came together.." This is just a little reminiscent of a famous piece by Charles Ives.