oa South African Journal of Cultural History - Herbert Howells' views on racial, political and religious issues in South Africa, 1921

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



The English composer Herbert Howells (1892-1983) travelled in South Africa for six weeks in 1921 as an examiner for the Royal Schools of Music. At that time he was on the staff of the Royal College of Music in London. During this strenuous journey, Howells was exposed for the first time to a totally foreign culture. In the literature on Howells, little is reported about his views on racial, political and religious issues. But in the detailed letters which he wrote from South Africa, references to these aspects are often found. Excerpts from Howells' letters indicate that he had very strong and mostly exceptionally negative views on these matters. The letters cast new light on lesser-known aspects of the intellectual make-up of a leading English composer, and illustrate at the same time how intense the reaction can be of a highly impressionable artist from abroad when confronted with the to him foreign South African culture.

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