Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Sir Ivor Atkins

Letter No.: 
[About 10th July 1932]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Atkins

I enjoyed my self very much on Thursday – the Benedicite went 1st rate - & I am sure the magnif: will be good – I wonder if the trouble was that the choir was too large?  Would a small select choir, say 30 or 40 voices be better – women I think not boys – unless we have one or two boys in to give colour.1
As regards “Quoniam” – I think there is nothing between complete rescoring & the original – unless you added 1 desk of viola & 1 desk of cellos to the 2 bassoon parts – to avoid that “drunken” sound of the 2 bassoons solo.2
Allen3 used to do this I think i.e. horn 2 fag (doubled with 2 vas & 2 cellos) then say 4 cellos & 1 bass playing the bass & the pfte doing continuo where needed.  I think if the solo horn could have had a good blow in one of the loud choruses previously.
I will send you the parts at once – also my trumpet parts – because there is one very important place – 1st entry of trumpet in Gloria – I make the trumpets start à 3 – it sounds magnificent – instead of one rather timid trumpet starting by himself  (I quote from memory)

then as written


R Vaughan Williams

1. Atkins was organist of Worcester Cathedral 1897-1950.  VW went to Worcester for a night on 7 July to attend rehearsals of his Benedicite (Catalogue of Works 1929/1) and Magnificat (Catalogue of Works 1932/2), which was to be given its performance on 8 September at the Three Choirs Festival.
2. VW is referring to J.S. Bach’s setting of the ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’ from the Gloria in the B Minor Mass, which is scored for horn, two bassoons and bass continuo.
3. Presumably Hugh Allen, conductor of the Bach Choir and director of the Royal College of Music.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add.MS 69449, ff.13-16
Cobbe 212
Original database number: