Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Alan Frank (OUP)

Letter No.: 
22nd. June, 1950.

The White Gates,

Dear Frank,1

I am sending, by Registered Post, (enclosed in a parcel to Foote - please ask him for it) the manuscript of three part songs and correspondence with regard to them. The story is as follows:
Nearly a year ago Armstrong Gibbs asked me to write some part songs - rather difficult - for a competition. I refused at first and then as I am in the habit of doing, the refusal made me think of something, which I wrote for him.2
He sent it on to Maurice Jacobson as one of the Festival Committee, who rather hoped Curwen’s were going to have it, but I put him right about that and said you must have first choice if you wanted it.
I ought to explain that Jacobson had not received my letter to Gibbs explaining this before he wrote the letter which I enclose.
If you decide to accept it I want your advice about the question of transposition adumbrated by Jacobson. I do not mind putting the first two up a semitone each or even a whole tone for No. 2, but I think No. 3 must stay as it is; but this must be decided entirely on artistic grounds and not on questions with which Jacobson seems entirely occupied as to whether it is “fair” on the basses who are not so good as other basses, and all these questions about the politics of competition, which do not interest me in the least.3

R. Vaughan Williams

1. Music Editor in succession to Norman Peterkin (1947); Head of Music from 1954 until his retirement in 1975.
2. Three Shakespeare Songs (Catalogue of Works 1951/3). Michael Kennedy relates the story from Armstrong  Gibbs’s point of view in Works of Vaughan Williams, pp. 316-17. The songs were to be performed as the test piece for mixed voice choirs at the British Federation of Music Festivals National Competitive Festival in June 1951.
3. Frank replied on 12th July that they wanted to leave No.1 at its existing pitch, transpose No.2 up a whole tone and agreed that No.3 should be left as it was.

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Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 119L
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