Elizabeth Poston (24 October 1905 – 18 March 1987) was an English composer, pianist, and writer.
Poston was born in Highfield House in Pin Green, which is now the site of Hampson Park in Stevenage. In 1914, she moved with her mother, Clementine Poston, to nearby Rooks Nest House, where E.M. Forster had lived as a child. Poston and Forster subsequently became good friends. She studied at Queen Margaret's School, York, and then at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London, where she was encouraged by both Peter Warlock and Ralph Vaughan Williams. She won a prize from the RAM for her violin sonata, which was subsequently broadcast by the BBC. When she graduated from the RAM in 1925, seven of her songs were published, and in 1928 she published five more. Poston went abroad between 1930 and 1939, where she studied architecture and collected folksongs. When she returned to England at the beginning of WWII she joined the BBC and became director of music in the European Service. She left briefly in 1945, but returned in 1947 to advise on the creation of the BBC Third Programme. Poston was the president of the Society of Women Musicians 1955–61.
Poston composed scores for radio and television productions – over 40 for radio alone – and collaborated with C. S. Lewis, Dylan Thomas, and other writers. She wrote the score for the television production of Howards End while living in Rooks Next House, and which was the setting for the novel.
In addition to composing, Poston was an academic. She wrote articles and program notes for the Arts Council of Great Britain and was the editor of a number of folksong carol and hymn collections. In 1947 she created a five-part lecture series on Peter Warlock for the BBC. Her carols, especially Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, remain widely performed. She was also a respected performer, premiering Walter Leigh’s Concertino for piano and strings and playing the piano at National Gallery Concerts.
Poston continued to live at Rooks Nest House until her death at the age of 81 in 1987.
- Free scores by Elizabeth Poston in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Elizabeth Poston’s "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" on YouTube: a 1970 performance by Guildford Cathedral Choir, directed by Barry Rose