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Second Suite in F

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Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst (ed. Colin Matthews)

This work bears the designation Op. 28, No. 2, H. 106.

General Info

Year: 1911 / edited 1984
Duration: c. 12:10
Difficulty: IV-1/2 (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $95.00   |   Score Only - $15.50


1. March – 4:45
2. Song without Words – 2:25
3. Song of a Blacksmith – 1:10
4. Fantasia on the 'Dargason' – 3:10


Full Score
C Piccolo
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet (Solo)
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet (ad lib)
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone (ad lib)
B-flat Bass Saxophone (ad lib)
B-flat Cornet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III (II optional)
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Anvil
  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle


Edition revised and edited by Colin Matthews (1984)

In Parts:

  • Clarinet I, mvt. III, 4 meas. after reh. B, beat 2-3: Rhythm of 4 notes (G-E-F#-G) should read 4 sixteenth notes, barred together (like reh. A)
  • Alto Saxophone, mvt. II, reh. A, beat 4: half rest should read quarter rest
  • Tenor Saxophone, mvt. I, 12 meas. after reh. H, beat 1-3: F-Eb-D should read G-F-Eb
  • Tenor Saxophone, mvt. I, reh. I (eye), beat 6: F should read G
  • Horns in F III-IV, mvt. III, 3 meas. before reh. A, and of beat 2: B should read A
  • Trombone I and II. Fix fast page turn between page 1 and 2
  • Basses. mvt. 3, 5 meas. after reh. C: add 4/4 meter signature
  • Snare Drum. mvt. I., 8 meas. after reh. K: Add tremolo on dotted quarter note

Program Notes

The Second Suite consists of four movements, all based on specific English folk songs.

Movement I: March: Morris Dance, Swansea Town, Claudy Banks. "The "March" of the Second Suite begins with a simple-five note motif between the low and high instruments of the band. The first folk tune is heard in the form of a traditional British brass band march using the Morris-dance tune "Glorishears". After a brief climax, the second strain begins with a euphonium solo playing the second folk tune in the suite, Swansea Town. The theme is repeated by the full band before the trio. For the trio, Holst modulates to the unconventional sub-dominant minor of B-flat minor and changes the time signature to 6/8, thereby changing the meter. (Usually one would modulate to sub-dominant major in traditional march form. While Sousa, reputably the "king of marches", would sometimes change time signatures for the trio (most notably in El Capitan), it was not commonplace.) The third theme, called Claudy Banks, is heard in a low woodwind soli, as is standard march orchestration. Then the first strain is repeated da capo.

Movement II: Song Without Words, 'I'll Love My Love'. Holst places the fourth folk song, I'll Love My Love, in stark contrast to the first movement. The movement begins with a chord from French horns and moves into a solo of clarinet with oboe over a flowing accompaniment in F Dorian. The solo is then repeated by the trumpet, forming an arc of intensity. The climax of the piece is a fermata in measure 32, followed by a trumpet pickup into the final measures of the piece.

Movement III: Song of the Blacksmith. Again, Holst contrasts the slow second movement to the rather upbeat third movement which features the folk song A Blacksmith Courted Me. The brass section plays in a pointillistic style depicting a later Holst style. There are many time signature changes (4/4 to 3/4) making the movement increasingly difficult because the brass section has all of their accompaniment on the up-beats of each measure. The upper-woodwinds and horns join on the melody around the body of the piece, and are accompanied with the sound of a blacksmith tempering metal with an anvil called for in the score. The final D major chord has a glorious, heavenly sound, which opens the way to the final movement. This chord works so effectively perhaps because it is unexpected: the entire movement is in F major when the music suddenly moves to the major of the relative minor.

Movement IV: Fantasia on the Dargason. This movement is not based on any folk songs, but rather has two tunes from Playford's Dancing Master of 1651. The finale of the suite opens with an alto saxophone solo based on the folk tune Dargason, a 16th century English dance tune included in the first edition of The Dancing Master. The fantasia continues through several variations encompassing the full capabilities of the band. The final folk tune, Greensleeves, is cleverly woven into the fantasia by the use of hemiolas, with Dargason being in 6/8 and Greensleeves being in 3/4. At the climax of the movement, the two competing themes are placed in competing sections. As the movement dies down, a tuba and piccolo duet forms a call back to the beginning of the suite with the competition of low and high registers.

The name 'dargason' may perhaps come from an Irish legend that tells of a monster resembling a large bear (although much of the description of the creature has been lost over time). The dargason tormented the Irish country side. During the Irish uprising of the late 18th Century, the dargason is supposed to have attacked a British camp, killing many soldiers. This tale aside, 'dargason' is more likely derived from an Anglo-Saxon word for dwarf or fairy, and the tune has been considered English (or Welsh) since at least the 16th century. It is also known as 'Sedony' (or Sedany) or 'Welsh Sedony'.

Holst later rewrote and re-scored this movement for string orchestra, as the final movement of his St Paul's Suite (1912), which he wrote for his music students at St Paul's Girls' School.

- Program Notes by Imogen Holst

Holst composed the Second Suite in 1911, but he was so preoccupied (and later fatigued) by the details of supervising a performance by Morley College students of Purcell’s Fairy Queen (the first since the 17th century) that he forgot about the work until asked to compose another suite for military band in 1921. He changed his original tune Young Reilly in the opening of the march to the Morris dance Glorishears and made some slight changes in the instrumentation to comply with the instrumentation adopted by the Kneller Hall Conference of December 1921. The suite was premiered on June 30, 1922, at Royal Albert Hall, London, by the Military School of Music Band conducted by Lt. Hector E. Adkins.

The march movement uses three tunes, set in the pattern A-B-C-A-B. After the opening Morris dance, a broad and lyrical folk song, Swansea Town, features the euphonium and is followed by Claudy Banks, which has a lilting, swinging feeling derived from its compound duple meter. In describing the entire suite, Richard Franko Goldman comments that “no more delightful contribution has ever been made by a prominent composer to the band repertory.”

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band

There have been several editions of the work, most recently by Boosey & Hawkes (1984), edited by Colin Matthews, and by Ludwig/Masters (2006), edited by Frederick Fennell. A 1948 full score published by Boosey & Hawkes added several instruments, most of which Matthews removed in his 1984 edition.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

Defining “folk music” can be a difficult task, particularly in a time when we are (rightfully) concerned with cultural recognition and appropriation.  While it would be easy to simply dismiss many wind band repertoire standards -- like Second Suite in F for Military Band -- it could instead be an opportunity to redefine why certain parts of our musical heritage are important.

Written in 1911 (though not premiered until 1922), Second Suite introduces and develops seven tuneful folk melodies over four movements.  The introductory march begins with Glorishears -- a Morris-dance tune realized in the style of a British town brass band.  A euphonium soloist sings out the sweeping melody of Swansea Town before clarinets and saxophones dance to Claudy Banks.  A recapitulation of Glorishears concludes the opening movement.  The second movement, Song Without Words:I’ll Love My Love,” features a new exploration of the ensemble’s texture, pairing mournful solo voices against a brooding pulse of woodwinds and euphonium.  Song of the Blacksmith, movement three, features a much brighter, brassier color.  Alongside driving syncopations, it is easy to imagine the blacksmith hard at work, sparks flying.  After an unexpected transition, the fullness of the countryside is revealed in the final movement, Fantasia on the Dargason.  Propelled by joyful jig-like rhythms and a celebratory tambourine, a sustained setting of Greensleeves triumphantly arrives before the contrast of the opening’s tuba and piccolo close the suite.

Celebrated English composer Gustav Holst wrote and revised his two suites for military band during a time of immense compositional growth.  Both suites were composed before the premiere of Holst’s symphonic masterwork The Planets (1918), which in many ways relied on his experience working with folk songs.  In Second Suite, much of Holst’s source material comes from the work of Dr. G. B. Gardiner and Cecil Sharp, anthropologists who collected field recordings throughout England.  (Interestingly, Sharp later traveled to the United States and collected recordings in the Southern Appalachians that helped spur the folk revival era of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and more.  A lineage from these collections can be traced to present day through countless popular recording artists.)

Too often, overemphasizing originality or pure authenticity robs us of one of the great joys of music listening: familiarity.  “The pleasures that come from popular music listening,” says scholar Keith Negus, “arise from those moments of sudden recognition or discovery, when we find a connection.”  Embracing folk music as gathered, collected, and evolving -- where players and listeners alike are encouraged to infuse their own experiences -- helps us realize a richer musical tradition of connection, one Holst’s Second Suite continues for wind bands even now.

- Program note by David Stanley for the University of Georgia's Wind Symphony concert program, 29 September 2021


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Arkansas:
    • Grade III: Movement 1 or 2
    • Grade IV: Any two movements
    • Grade V: Complete Suite
  • California: V Class A
  • Florida: IV, V --- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Georgia: V, VI
  • Iowa: IV
  • Louisiana: III, IV, V
  • Maryland: V
  • Michigan: Senior High AA
  • Minnesota: I
  • Mississippi: IV-A, V-A, VI-A
  • New York: VI
  • North Carolina: V, VI
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Tennessee: V. Complete
  • Texas:
    • Grade III: Movement 1, 2, or 4
    • Grade IV: Three movements
    • Grade V: Complete Suite
  • Virginia:
    • Grade V: Two movements
    • Grade VI: Complete Suite
  • Wisconsin: Event 3000 Concert Band Class A


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Dos Palos (Calif.) High School Wind Symphony (Luis Angel Gonzalez, conductor) - 26 March 2023 (2023 Sutherland Wind Festival (Fresno, Calif.)
  • University of Louisiana at Lafayette Wind Ensemble (William J. Hochkeppel, conductor) - 18 March 2023
  • Arizona State University (Tempe) Wind Symphony (Jamal Duncan, conductor) - 22 March 2023
  • The Naperville (Ill.) Winds (Sean Kelley, conductor) - 23 February 2023
  • University of Iowa (Iowa City) Concert Band (Eric W. Bush, conductor) - 5 December 2022
  • University of Portland (Ore.) Wind Symphony (Patrick Murphy, conductor) - 19 November 2022
  • Youngstown (Ohio) State University Concert Band (Michael S. Butler, conductor) - 25 April 2022
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Symphonic Band (Shaun Evans, conductor) – 19 October 2021
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City) Wind Ensemble (Rebekah Daniel, conductor) - 29 September 2021
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Concert Band (Kimberly Fleming, conductor) - 29 September 2021
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Wind Symphony (David Stanley, conductor) - 29 September 2021
  • Friends University (Wichita, Kan.) Concert Band (Shawn M. Knopp, conductor) - 27 September 2021
  • South Dakota State University (Brookings) Wind Symphony (Kevin Kessler, conductor) - 25 April 2021
  • Henderson State University (Arkadelphia, Ark.) Wind Ensemble (Shaun R. Popp, conductor) - 11 April 2021
  • Stephen F. Austin University (Nacogdoches, Tx.) Wind Symphony (Tamey Anglley, conductor) - 9 April 2021
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Orchestra (Andrew Trachsel, conductor) - 4 March 2021
  • Sacramento (Calif.) State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Matthew Morse, conductor) - 16 December 2020 (Virtual)
  • University of Wyoming (Laramie) Wind Symphony (Robert Belser, conductor) - 5 November 2020
  • Ouachita Baptist University (Arkadelphia, Ark.) Wind Ensemble (Craig V. Hamilton, conductor) - 27 October 2020
  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks) Wind Ensemble (James Popejoy, conductor) - 13 October 2020

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Music