Between the Sandhills and the Sea 

And Other Works

A Tribute to Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

This project is a presentation of three related works for violoncello & piano and solo piano.

All music composed by Eric Starr (except for a passage from Edward Brittain's L'Envoi). 

Featuring performances by Hannah Holman (cello) and Michelle Alvarado (piano) with poetry by Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby.


No Mourning By Request

For Violoncello and Piano

A Tribute to Winifred Holtby

Between the Sandhills and the Sea

For Violoncello and Piano

I. Time

II. Love and War

III. Dear Roland

IV. A Plea

V. Refuse to Forget (L'Envoi)

A Tribute to Vera Brittain

Epilogue: Immortal Flower

For Solo Piano

A Tribute to Winifred Holtby

I’ve composed music to honor two visionary women in history: authors Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby (biographical information below). 


This tribute is a series of original works for piano & cello and solo piano. The first movement of Between the Sandhills and the Sea was debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2018. Since then, the project’s scope has greatly expanded. As part of the presentation, a reading of select poems by these authors will accompany each of the seven movements of music.


Currently, we have three concerts scheduled in the American Midwest for October, 2021. Please see "events" on this website for more information.


We are also in pre-production for an audio recording of the music/poetry. All sales of the recording will benefit the Campaign for Female Education (

Winifred Holtby.jpg

Winifred Holtby


Vera Brittain as a VAD nurse.


Michelle Alvarado (piano) and Hannah Holman (cello) performing "Movement I: Time" from Between the Sandhills and the Sea at Carnegie Hall. 

Who were Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby? 

Vera Brittain (1893-1970) and Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) were groundbreaking British authors and social reformers. Brittain, a nurse during WWI, was the only woman to chronicle the Great War in depth. Together with her friend Holtby, Brittain campaigned for peace, women’s rights, and minority rights.


Both were strong believers in the internationalism promised by the League of Nations. Their collective message is a cautionary tale, informed by a keen understanding of the horrors of war and an unwavering desire to promote gender and racial equality.


Working near the front lines, Brittain witnessed the devastation of war while caring for both British and German soldiers. Among others, she also lost her only brother and a fiancé to the war. Later, her grief-stricken father committed suicide over his son’s death. Brittain wrote and lectured with searing passion about her powerful experiences, and is best known for her memoir Testament of Youth (1933).


Like Brittain, Holtby was dedicated to world peace, women’s rights, and racial justice. Among other achievements, she established the Society of Friends of Africa (1934), which promoted the unionization of Black workers. In 1940, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Library was built in Johannesburg in her honor. The first library of its kind in South Africa, it was ‘equipped solely for the use of non-Europeans...and intended to serve native women as well as men.’


Holtby died at age 37 from renal failure, but not before completing her landmark feminist novel, South Riding (1936).

“Perhaps, after all, the best that we who were left [after WWI] could do was to refuse to forget, and to teach our successors what we remembered in the hope that they, when their own day came, would have more power to change the world than this bankrupt, shattered generation.” 

-Vera Brittain

“We've got to have courage to take our future into our hands. If the law is oppressive, we must change the law. If tradition is obstructive, we must break tradition. If the system is unjust, we must reform the system." 

-Winifred Holtby