Thaxted is an ancient and beautiful market town in Essex where Gustav Holst lived for many years. When this tune was taken from his suite The Planets
, only one note needed to be changed to turn it into a melody that people love to sing. In the suite it grows into being from the hurly-burly of the opening section that portrays Jupiter, ‘the Bringer of Jollity’. The rapid swirl of notes with which the movement begins has the opening notes of this tune. Its nobility is perhaps a portrait of the king of the gods. Separated from its source it shows a regal poise that can yet express devotion and humility. It has been felt to have a ‘Britishness’ that makes it suitable for national occasions.
The opening words of the hymn, by Cecil Spring-Rice, lead us in that direction, but in fact the second verse take us on a different journey, to ‘another country’. The hymn is therefore one to be used with care.
from notes by Alan Luff © 1999