Stevenage carol concert will pay tribute to composers with connections to town’s Rook’s Nest landmark

Former Master of the Queen's Music Malcolm Williamson, who once lived at Rook's Nest House in Steven

Former Master of the Queen's Music Malcolm Williamson, who once lived at Rook's Nest House in Stevenage. Picture courtesy of Margaret Ashby - Credit: Archant

Echoes of Stevenage’s musical heritage will ring out in a carol concert raising money for modern-day good causes.

Stevenage musician and composer Elizabeth Poston, who once lived at Rook's Nest House. Picture court

Stevenage musician and composer Elizabeth Poston, who once lived at Rook's Nest House. Picture courtesy of Margaret Ashby - Credit: Archant

Stevenage Arts Guild’s Christmas event is steeped in history – included in the programme will be works by composers Elizabeth Poston and Malcolm Williamson, along with the more traditional carols.

The guild was founded in the 1950s to encourage artistic endeavours in the area.

And the concert – at the town’s St Nicholas Church on Saturday, December 5 – will include performances from the newly-formed Jubilate Singers, Almond Hill school choir, a brass ensemble from Barclay School and young cellists from Datchworth Primary School.

Joining them are Lydia Dobson, one of the Arts Guild’s talented young stars, violinist Daniel Garvin and singers Erin John and Hannah Coombe.


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The concert starts at 3pm, with refreshments to follow the music.

The two composers both lived for a time at Rook’s Nest House, the landmark best known as the one-time home of author E. M. Forster.

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Malcolm Williamson, the Australian who was the first ‘foreigner’ to become Master of the Queen’s Music, lived there for two years from 1990.

But Elizabeth Poston’s links to the house date back to Forster’s era.

Rook’s Nest House was his childhood home, and he was a regular worshipper at St Nicholas – a place of worship for more than 900 years – in his youth.

It provided the inspiration for the famous Howard’s End novel which is considered by many to be his masterpiece.

Poston was first a neighbour, living in nearby Highfield House before she moved into Rook’s Nest with her mother in 1914. She remained there until her death in 1987.

She was very much a part of the local community and Arts Guild chair Hilary Spiers recalled: “Elizabeth was a prominent person in the local musical world.

“She was president of the Stevenage Music Society and often composed music for local events, including music for the 500th anniversary of Alleyne’s School, as well as events at the church.”

Both made more than a musical contribution to the area – they were also involved in campaigns to save the house and the land around it from development as Stevenage’s new town expanded.

When Poston told Forster of the threat to the house in 1946, the pair supported the campaign to save it.

Forster, talking of the area in a radio broadcast of the time, said: “I was brought up as a boy in one of the home counties in a district which I still think the loveliest in England.”

Rook’s Nest House still stands today and that area of Stevenage is often fondly referred to as ‘Forster country’.

Tickets for next month’s concert – which includes a number of pieces by both artists, including Poston’s ‘Jesus Christ The Apple Tree’ – are £5. Call Hilary on 01438 350217 or email johnhilary1@virginmedia.com to reserve yours.

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