Holst’s “The Planets” Project

Welcome to Planet Three Eleven Thousand!

Salisbury Cathedral, La Folia Workshop.                                                                             Picture: Finnbarr Webster

It was a VERY special day for La Folia when our Planets Project came to a grand finale in Salisbury Cathedral 🎶🚀🎶 🪐.  Over the past few months, we have been introducing Exeter House School and Year 5 from Salisbury Cathedral School to Holst’s “The Planets”. 🪐

In response to Assistant Director of Music (Salisbury Cathedral) John Challenger’s wonderful transcription for the organ of Holst’s masterpiece, these wonderful students have created their very own new planet – Planet Three Eleven Thousand 🪐311000🪐

What a hugely moving experience it was to see the joy in the Cathedral from the students, teachers, carers, musicians and fabulous poet Martin Figura, as they sang their hearts out and danced in the Cathedral Quire 💜🕺🏻💃🏻🤸🏻💜

🙏Thank you Howard (Artistic Director, La Folia) thank you John Challenger (Assistant Director of Music, Salisbury Cathedral) thank you Susie Lamb (Head of Music, Salisbury Cathedral School) thank you Jon White, Josh Hamblin and all at Exeter House School, thank you Martin Figura, but mostly thanks to the wonderful students from both schools 🙌🏻 you smashed it💥🚀💥👊🏻💥

Martin Figura (poet)                                                              Picture: Finnbarr Webster

Picture: Finnbarr Webster

John Challenger (Assistant Director of Music, Salisbury Cathedral)
Picture: Finnbarr Webster

Here’s what Howard Moody has to say about this very special project:

“Meeting John Challenger in the street after lockdown was a happy coincidence. I asked him the La Folia question that I ask all creative artists who want to take their work to new places – “what do you want to do?”. John immediately knew the answer – to make a transcription of Holst’s The Planets on the newly restored Cathedral organ. He also wanted to be involved in another Evening Songs project with la Folia, involving Exeter House School and the Cathedral School. Every project takes about two years to put together, so here we at last, making The Planets project, warming up to the larger scale Evening Songs project, hopefully in 2024. Thank you John for inspiring two La Folia projects that restore the link with Exeter House School, the Cathedral and The Cathedral School.

Holst’s music gave us wonderful riffs that became starting points for improvisations in the workshops. We focussed on  Mars, Jupiter and Neptune – anger, joy and mystery. The first session was purely musical, taking the students to three different musical zones from which they started to create melodies, songs and lyrics.  At a time when scientists are discovering new planets on a relatively regular basis, the imaginative starting point became about somewhere undiscovered. For the Exeter House students, the three titles became places of colour – green, yellow and red.  Mars was anger from inside out. Their Jupiter was a place where I wake up spinningdancing on Jupiter.  In the style of Holst’s vocalise at the end of Neptune, beautiful lyrics and melodies emerged over an “E major six over C sharp” chord: Rainbow dreams, Autumn smiles, hand in hand. Peace and calm.

The Cathedral school students’ songs came from a place of imagination inside our headsWe can fly. I asked for a title of such a planet that can be constantly rediscovered. The result was Planet Three Eleven Thousand. Of course! At last I felt able to fulfil a long held dream to find an excuse to make non-patriotic lyrics for the Holst’s well-known tune from Jupiter.  The students had already voiced all the required ideas during the song writing:

Planet Three Eleven Thousand,

A space inside my head,

Where numbers always spin around,

Green, Yellow and Red.

A place where Autumn smiles,

A place where we can fly,

A planet of happiness

A place of no goodbyes.

Planet Three Eleven Thousand,

A place of no goodbyes.

At this point, we were joined by the poet Martin Figura.  Martin asked the groups for everyday impressions of what a planet could be for them. Their responses will have informed Martin’s own writing that he presents at John’s evening recital, giving the project another dimension.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the project – students, artists, managers and funders, with Holst’s music and John Challenger’s supreme artistry at its core. The collaboration between the Cathedral and La Folia is precious. Next stop Evening Songs!”

Howard Moody, February 2023

Picture: Finnbarr Webster

Picture: Finnbarr Webster

Picture: Finnbarr Webster