The Royal Forest of Dean
Herbert Howells Society
Established in 2005 by local Historian Mr Maurice Bent
Registered Charity - 1115748
For the Promotion of the knowledge and appreciation of the works of Herbert Howells.
Encouraging young musicians in the Forest Of Dean by way of bursaries.
Organising concerts and talks and providing a trophy
for the Cheltenham competitive (Music) Festival
A Brief History of The Society
It was in 1952 that Maurice Bent (Local Forest Historian) first heard of the Forest of Dean composer Herbert Howells via a mentor; George Williams who at the time was conductor of the Ruardean Hill Choral Society. In those days music sung in the forest was of Handel, Elgar, Mozart and others. George Williams commented to Maurice that Herbert Howells music was of a "modern nature".
Having heard of Howells back in 1952 it was in 2004 that Maurice whilst researching works for a book was reminded of his conversations with George Williams and decided to delve further into Howells history and works.
At that time the only acknowledgement of Howells in the Forest of Dean was a plaque on the outside of a house in Lydney where Howells was born. Maurice was determined that Howells works deserved a larger and wider recognition and embarked on a quest to have a permanent memorial erected in St Marys Church, Lydney; where Howells as a youngster sang and played the organ.
Driven on by further research of Howells works, Maurice contacted Howells daughter - Ursula - informing her of his determination to erect a memorial plaque in St Marys Church. Ursula was delighted and fully endorsed the plan. Maurice set to work meeting with local music lovers; explaining Howells story and the plan for a Memorial Plaque. In essence this formed the start of the Royal Forest Of Dean Herbert Howells Society, formally established as a Charity in 2005. A plaque was subsequently erected in St Marys Church dedicated by the Bishop of Gloucester. A fitting memorial to a great Forest of Dean Composer.
Following the success of the memorial and driven by Maurice's determination to further promote Herbert's works the Society decided to establish a bursary to be used to enable youngsters living in the Forest of Dean to start their musical careers. The first Bursary competition was Held in 2005 with funding provided by the Royal Forest Of Dean Rotary Club and subsequent funding provided through society memberships, donations and gifts, including support from Monmouth School who raised £650 through a musical concert at which Maurice Bent was guest speaker and shared his knowledge of Herbert Howells.
To date, there have been Eight bursary awards since then through a bi-annual Herbert Howells Bursary competition. From an initial £500 bursary in 2005 the prize now stands at £2000 for the 2019 competition. A list of these winners can be found in the archive part of this website.
These young bursary winners have gone onto develop music careers which includes along with other accomplishments composing music played at the BBC proms.
The society has been actively involved promoting Herbert Howells, forging links with the National Herbert Howells Society and the Herbert Howells Trust. The society helped fund the maintenance of Herbert Howells sons grave (Michael) in Twigworth Gloucesterand supports sharing Howells story internationally. The society has had dedicated support from its members and committee and is extremely grateful for the works of the founding committee who over a 12 year period have raised the Howells name within the Forest and beyond. Special thanks is reserved for Judy Capps (Past Secretary), Geoff Capps (Past Treasurer), June Jones, Margaret Mudway and Clive Lewis.
In 2016 a new committee was formed around a new vision to increase the knowledge of Herbert Howells and raise the value of the Bursary award.
2017 / 18 was the 125th anniversary of Howells birth with the society commemorating the event with a Howells exhibition in the Dean Heritage Centre Museum and a Concert in Gloucester Cathedral where the winners of our bursary performed along with the cathedral Youth and Childrens Choirs.
In early 2017 Joe Pelessier - Herbert Howells Grandson became president of the Society
The society was incredibly proud to host a concert in Gloucester Cathedral in July 2018
With a new committee, a president and esteemed patrons the society will continue to promote the Name of Howells through greater links with the three counties choir festivals (Gloucester, Hereford, Worcester), working with other Howells societies.
If you are interested in finding out more or would like to join the society, become a friend or kindly make a donation then please visit our contact page and submit a request.
Society Committee - Volunteers
President - Joe Pelessier
Chair - Maurice Bent
Secretary - Tony Hughes
Treasurer - Ken Burrows
Membership Sec - Judy Tyler
Committee - Doreen Bent