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Elizabeth Poston: her music and her influence

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Multitude of Voyces is honoured to be the executor of the copyright of the literary and musical estate of Elizabeth Poston. 


Many of her works have never seen performances beyond their premieres decades ago and our exciting new project will represent the most-extensive study and publication of her works to date. 


Our work will be carried out in memory of the late Mr Geoffrey Elborn and the late Dr John Alabaster and through the generosity of Mr Simon Campion, Poston's dear friend and musical/literary executor.


To aid us in our work Dr Alabaster's family have generously gifted his research and its copyright to the charity, and alongside the transcription, careful editing and publication of the music scores we shall also continue to build on Dr Alabaster's research at his express request, working closely alongside the British Library, the Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies and other archives which house music scores, correspondence and other literary content by Elizabeth Poston. In addition we shall explore the historical context of Poston's published works and will develop links with those music publishers which retain the right to publish certain works.


Our new scores will be transcribed, co-edited and prepared by our Associate, Anna Williams, who will co-lead this project. All income raised through the sale of these scores will directly support the continuation of this project.


We shall be working to create links with the original commissioners of the works, and with those musicians who performed the premieres or who made historical recordings of the works in partnership with Elizabeth Poston. 


We hope to work with project partners including the Peter Warlock Society and other music trusts relating to Elizabeth Poston's musical friends and contemporaries and we welcome interest from any arts or heritage-based organisations whose charitable objects overlap with ours. 


We shall be seeking major funding for this project: funds are needed for: complex legal advice; the photography of EP's music manuscripts; the preparation of a digital database of works and extant research; the transcription, editing and typesetting of the sheet-music; the publication of the sheet-music; partnership work with arts festivals to plan performances of the works; partnership work with professional musicians to provide an exemplar recording of each work for public access; ongoing funds for the management and running of the charity.


Please note that the entire musical and literary estate - both published and unpublished -  is subject to copyright until 2058. Many of Elizabeth Poston's manuscripts and papers can be viewed at the British Library and at Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies (HALS) however all enquiries about the use of the music (including requesting or taking photographs of manuscripts or other material, the preparation of scores, performances and recordings) should be addrssed to the trustees via Update: The British Library is undertaking conservation and cataloguing work of the manuscripts and those papers will be unavailable for public access until August 2024.


Manuscripts/letters/photos belonging to the estate but in the posession of private individuals may be returned to the estate via the the charity using the above email address. 


Please note that all requests to make arrangements of original works by Elizabeth Poston will be refused, so as to maintain the integrity of the composer's work.


Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987) 

Elizabeth Poston, well known for her unique carol, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, was a prolific composer, particularly of songs, producing a dozen or so meticulously researched song-books, as well as orchestral and chamber music, choral works and two operettas (altogether at least 920 works).   

Born in rural Hertfordshire, she was inspired by the sounds of the countryside, saying that songs were ‘always her first and permanent love’. Her adored home, Rooks Nest House, standing on the northern outskirts of Stevenage, in view of the Chilterns, was equally appreciated by E. M. Forster, who had spent much of his youth there.  He subsequently based his novel, Howards End on the house and its Poston inhabitants. Elizabeth had the moving experience of writing the incidental music for its 1970 BBC film production, as she also did for that of his Room with a View and some 65 other BBC commissions. 

She had a long association with the BBC: even as a student her compositions were broadcast; in her early 30s during World War II, she was appointed Director of Music for the European Service, transmitting coded messages in the form of precisely-timed recorded music; after the war she helped to set up the BBC Third Programme, served on the BBC Advisory Panel and broadcast as a pianist and gave talks, including two notable series on her close friend, the composer Peter Warlock, who loved fifteenth and sixteenth century texts as she did – ‘the music of the words’.

(C) Dr John S. Alabaster author: Elizabeth Poston: Catalogue of Works with Biographical Context (Alabaster, J. S., 2018)

reproduced with permission 


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