Celebrating the 150th Birthday of
Ralph Vaughan Williams in 2022
In 2022 the music industry will celebrate the 150th Birthday of British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958); a commemoration of international significance, with performances, recordings and associated events, and the last major anniversary before his works go out of copyright. Celebrations will be taking place up to and beyond the birthday on 12th October.
The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is working with a number of partner organisations in raising awareness of ‘RVW150’, supporting external activities and connecting with potential promoters, performers, publicists, media and recording labels. The anniversary provides an opportunity for the widest range of performances internationally, both amateur and professional. Members of our Committee can advise on programming choices, programme notes and publicity.
Many of the UK’s regional concert societies and festivals are aiming to programme works by Vaughan Williams, and the composer will feature in choral evensongs, exhibitions and seminars, and will be celebrated throughout the media. An overseas campaign is reaching out to promoters, particularly in the USA and Japan.
For Society members, plans for a special ‘celebration day’ are in development. For non-members thinking about joining the Society, now is the ideal time as we gather resources and work towards placing Vaughan Williams at the centre of global music-making.
Vaughan Williams’s legacy
In a long and productive life, hardly a music genre has been left untouched or failed to be enriched by Vaughan Williams’s work, which includes nine symphonies, five operas, music for film, ballet and stage, several song cycles, church music and works for chorus and orchestra.
The popularity of the composer’s most accessible works, in particular the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and The Lark Ascending, has never been higher, with radio polls* consistently voting these as listeners’ favourites, while the Symphony No.5 is one of the most popular of British symphonies** with the Romanza theme voted as one of the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Melodies’***.
2022 also sees the centenary of the first performance of the composer’s Symphony No.3 (Pastoral), which was given by the Orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society under Adrian Boult in the Queen’s Hall on 26 January 1922.
Amongst recent internationally renowned champions of the composer, conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis (the Society’s President), Martyn Brabbins, Andrew Manze, Sir Mark Elder, as well as Martin Yates and John Wilson, have all recorded symphony cycles or conducted the composer’s major works both in the UK and abroad to widespread acclaim. Most recently, Sir Antonio Pappano and Esa-Pekka Salonen have also conducted symphonies.
21st-century musicians who have acknowledged Vaughan Williams’s influence on their development include John Adams, PJ Harvey, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle, Anthony Payne, Wayne Shorter, Neil Tennant, Richard Thompson and Mark-Anthony Turnage.
The most recent commemoration, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death in 2008, saw a major reappraisal of this giant of twentieth-century music, with two contrasting new documentary films; John Bridcut’s The Passions of Vaughan Williams and Tony Palmer’s O Thou Transcendent: The Life of Vaughan Williams as well as books, recordings, international performances and unprecedented media-wide attention.
* Classic FM ‘Hall of Fame’
** ‘World Cup of British & Irish 20/21C Symphonies’ (Twitter)
*** David Hurwitz ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Melodies’
Help for your project
Funding may be available through the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust who are particularly interested in supporting the more rarely heard works. You can also obtain the ‘RVW150’ logo for your publicity purposes: www.vwct.org.uk
The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society
The Society communicates activities within our membership and the wider world through our website, publications and on social media, as well as through the music management consultancy, Archery Music Promotions.
Comprehensive information about the composer’s life and works can be found at:
Specific enquiries should be directed to the Society’s Officers:
Concert Resources Officer: John Treadway
For programme notes and advice on organising your concert: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information Officer: Graham Muncy
For all general matters relating to Ralph Vaughan Williams: email@example.com
Publicity and Events Officer: Karen Fletcher
To publicise events, concerts, recordings, publications: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Early music inspiration
- Folk music inspiration
- Pacifism and responses to the World Wars.
- Literary inspirations and settings, e.g. Whitman, Swinburne, Shakespeare, Herbert, Bunyan, Hardy etc.
- Music of his teachers: Bruch, Ravel, Parry, and Stanford.
- Music of close contemporaries and friends: Gustav Holst, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, George Butterworth.
- Music of students Constant Lambert, Armstrong Gibbs, Grace Williams, Ruth Gipps, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Douglas Lilburn, Elizabeth Maconchy etc.
- Choral works and Operas
- Nine Symphonies
- Film Music
Job: A Masque for Dancing (many consider this to be central to RVW’s work).
Some less well-known works include the early chamber music, the Serenade in A minor (a favourite with Classic FM audiences); A Road all Paved with Stars (Symphonic Rhapsody from the Opera The Poisoned Kiss); The Death of Tintagiles (written for Maeterlinck’s symbolist drama), and the Violin Concerto (Concerto Accademico).
The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust
The British Library
The RVW Trust
Archery Music Promotions
There are numerous works ripe for discovery, including potential country premieres.
Oxford University Press (OUP)
including link to their RVW150 digital catalogue
Stainer & Bell
The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is a Registered Charity No: 1156614. Registered address: North House, 198 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BE.