Two manuscripts which had been missing for more than 100 years have been rediscovered in Tauranga.

The original music sheets were found in the library of the Bay of Plenty Symphonia.

The 1906 manuscripts feature handwritten and signed music from English composer Gustav Holst. Until now, what had become of these manuscripts was a mystery.

The manuscripts were found during a tidy-up of the symphonia's sheet music library, 20,000km from where they originated.

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Symphonia music director Justus Rozemond said he and librarian Gloria Pheasant were cleaning up, throwing away tonnes of old photocopies "and found these hand-written scores".

A page from the score of 'Folk Songs from Somerset'. Photo/supplied
A page from the score of 'Folk Songs from Somerset'. Photo/supplied

"We didn't really believe we were holding genuine Holst manuscripts, but there was just enough of a tingle of excitement not to throw them away."

Mr Rozemond said he and Ms Pheasant established that the handwriting looked like Holst's and that he had lived at the address written on the music at the top of the page, but they remained sceptical about its authenticity. The two put the scores away in a drawer.

Last month it was confirmed the manuscripts were genuine.

Orchestra member Bronya Dean said she contacted the Holst Archive in England and almost immediately received a reply excitedly saying that the signatures and handwriting were original and authentic.

"We were staggered. How did these manuscripts end up in a filing cabinet in our music library?"

The front page of 'Folk Songs from Somerset'. Photo/supplied
The front page of 'Folk Songs from Somerset'. Photo/supplied

The investigation has followed several leads and struck a few dead ends but the most connection is the English flautist Stanley Farnsworth, who conducted a predecessor of the symphonia in the 1960s.

Ms Dean said they had clues suggesting the scores were used by Farnsworth but that was as far as the trail went.

"We have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst. It would be great to think that someone who hears this news might know more, and be able to help us complete the puzzle."

Colin Matthews, of the Holst Foundation in the UK, said the manuscripts were a remarkable find, particularly the Folk Songs from Somerset which do not exist elsewhere in this form.

The symphonia does not yet know what to do with the manuscripts but acknowledges their proper home is probably back in the UK, where they will be more accessible to Holst researchers.

Despite this, the symphonia plans to perform the music in Tauranga. In the case of Folk Songs from Somerset, this could be for the first time in more than a century.

The front page of 'Two Songs without words' showing Holst's address. Photo/supplied
The front page of 'Two Songs without words' showing Holst's address. Photo/supplied

About Gustav Holst

- Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was an English composer, most well-known for writing the orchestral suite,

The Planets

.

- Holst was one of several English composers in the early 20th century, who were interested in using folk songs in their compositions.

About Holst's missing music

- Two manuscripts were found:

Folk Songs from Somerset

and

Two Songs Without Words

, both written in 1906.

-

Folk Songs of Somerset

is a setting of 10 folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp. It was premiered in 1906 by the City of Bath Pump Room Orchestra, conducted by Holst.

- After the premiere, Holst reworked three of the folk songs from

Folk Songs from Somerset

into a new piece, entitled

A Somerset Rhapsody

, which was published in 1907.

- The original

Folk Songs from Somerset

was never published, and the premiere was possibly the only ever performance. Prior to the discovery of the manuscript, details of the work were only known through the description in the programme notes from the premiere performance.

- Unlike

Folk Songs from Somerset

,

Two Songs Without Words

was published, so has been regularly performed. However, the original score was thought to have been lost. An orchestral score written out by a copyist and an autograph arrangement for brass band are held in the British Library in London.

About the BOP Symphonia

- The Bay of Plenty Symphonia is a community orchestra made up of enthusiastic amateur players of all ages, mostly from Tauranga but also from further afield in the Bay of Plenty - Katikati, Rotorua, Te Puke.

- It performs four concerts each year in Tauranga, and usually performs one concert each year in another part of the Bay of Plenty, notably Rotorua and Waihi Beach.

- Bay of Plenty Symphonia Inc is an incorporated society and a registered charity.

- It is run by volunteers, with a contracted music director and soloists.

- Tauranga has had a community orchestra, in various forms, since the late 1940s.

- For more information please visit