Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Adrian Boult (BBC)

Letter No.: 
Oct 26 [1940]

The White Gates,

Dear Adrian

Here is a suggestion for the patriotic song.1  Please criticize it
(1) Its artistic merit if any
(2) Its popularity & singability
It must hit the nail on the head and be able to be picked up by ear - For that reason I made it as square as possible - possibly to the detriment once or twice of its quality - for example in my original sketch line 2 ran -

Again at line 5 I originally had

but this seemed to me to pull it out too much - On the other hand

is  “Song on your” too much of a gabble?  In subsequent verses I have been obliged to make slight note alterations to fit the words but this is the case also in ‘Jerusalem’ which does not seem less singable on that account.
If you think this sketch is possible I would suggest the following arrangements of it
Verses 1 & 2 Baritone Solo with chorus coming in at “England”
Verse 3 Harmonized chorus
Verse 4 Everybody in unison with a descant
But as an alternative unison chorus throughout.
Would you please pass this copy letter on to Walford for his criticism - I am also sending copies to Colles & Foss for suggestions - Gustav used to say that he always asked for advice but never took it.  I always say to my pupils that there are 3 things to do with advice (1) to reject it blindly - this is bad. (2) to accept it blindly - this is worse. (3) to let it sink in and suggest a 3rd course - this is good.


P.S.  Show it to any one you like for further opinions - could not you get some of the more unmusical of your staff together to try it out & see how well they picked it up.

1. England, My England (Catalogue of Works 1941/1), commissioned by the BBC. See also VWL1434.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/13, ff.59-61
General notes: 

In the hand of AVW; signature and PS by VW. Year taken from context.
Also inserted above the date is the following note to Walford Davies from Boult: ‘Dear Walford,  This explains itself.  I have acknowledged & criticised, & so you can (if you like) send it straight back to Ralph Yrs Adrian 30/10/40’.

Cobbe 350; Moore, Music and friends, pp.133-134
Original database number: