Elizabeth Poston
Composer Profile: Elizabeth Poston

As part of our #afemalecomposerday campaign marking International Women's Day, we highlight the life and work of composer Elizabeth Poston. 

Elizabeth Poston- Composer, writer, and musicologist; Elizabeth Poston was a multi-talented musician with a distinguished career in radio broadcasting (and even a role as a ‘secret agent’)…

Well known as a composer of hymn tunes, carols, and pieces for radio and television, Elizabeth Poston’s involvement in music was multifaceted. Pursuing her musical talent at the Royal Academy of Music, she graduated in 1925 with a prize for her violin sonata, which was subsequently broadcast by the BBC, and seven published songs already to her name.

Among the most significant of Elizabeth’s musical achievements are her compositions for radio and television, of which there are over 40 for radio alone; her work saw her collaborate with prominent writers such as C.S. Lewis and Dylan Thomas.

In addition to her success as a composer, Poston had a highly accomplished career as an academic; having written for the Arts Council of Great Britain, in 1947 she also created a five-part lecture series for the BBC on composer Peter Warlock, and subsequently presided over the Society of Women Musicians from 1955 to 1961.

What remains particularly interesting about Poston’s life is her secretive work as a war agent; during World War II she worked for the BBC using gramophone records to send coded messages to allies in Europe. Interestingly, Poston never revealed the exact nature of this work and it remains secret to this day.

Poston’s works are often characterised as neo-classical in style. Her most widely reordered carol remains “Jesus Christ The Apple Tree” (1967) - take a listen to it here:

Records of Elizabeth Poston held by the BMC physical archive:

The British Music Collection boasts not only an online collection, but an extensive physical collection, which is held in Huddersfield at Heritage Quay. Within the collection records of Elizabeth can be found, which may include reocrds such as assorted biographies, reviews and programmes, scores and recordings. To find out how to visit the physical archives, follow this link to the Heritage Quay site.

Elizabeth Poston's British Music Collection records can be found online here.