Performance – Gustav Holst: ‘Dargason’

folk dancers

In June 2020 the OrchLab team had planned to run live workshops with Garwood Foundation and St Cecilia’s Leonard Cheshire centre, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic we took our workshops online instead. As part of these sessions we had a ‘Listening Party’ where we watched specially created videos of LPO musicians making music together from their living rooms at home! 

One of the pieces we featured in our Listening Party was ‘Dargason’ from St Paul’s Suite by Gustav Holst, which you can watch in the video below. 

‘Dargason’, fourth movement of St Paul’s Suite

‘Dargason’ is the fourth movement of Gustav Holst’s St Paul’s Suite, written for St Paul’s Girls School orchestra. Holst was a music teacher at the school and this was his first composition for the string orchestra. A string orchestra is made up of five different groups of musicians: violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello and double bass. In this video, you can see we have five LPO musicians representing each of the parts.

The piece features melodies from two English folk songs. The first one we hear is the ‘Dargason’ – a fast and dance-like tune. You’ll hear it played first by Minn on the violin. The second is a version of the famous ‘Greensleeves’ tune (rumoured to have been written by King Henry VIII!) which you will first hear played by Elisabeth on the cello. The two folk songs are then played together in various ways throughout this lively movement.

Originally Holst wrote this movement for Military Band for a different Suite called ‘Second Suite in F major’. You can listen to it on the Spotify link below this text.

Can you hear the different instruments that Holst originally used for this piece? Have a look at our OrchMap to see if you can work out which orchestral instruments featured in the original.

Did you know?

The name ‘dargason’ may come from an Irish legend that tells of a monster resembling a large bear that tormented the countryside, or it could be an Old English word from the 16th century for a fairy or a dwarf!  

Explore more: