Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to John Lowe

Letter No.: 
VWL2162
Feb 21 [1947]

The White Gates,
Dorking.

Dear Mr Lowe1

PLEASE do NOT have specially written works for your celebration - they are always duds - choose a programme of all the best works of our own and other countries (especially ours) starting with that wonderful mass by an unknown English composer which was done at John’s College Cambridge a few years ago (I wish Mr Tippet would do more of that kind of thing instead of being seduced by his foreign companion into wasting his efforts over that dreary Monteverdi stuff2).
Then you could do Maurice Greene “Lord let me know mine end” & Blest pair3 which will again I expect come out top if it is conducted by Adrian - then Sullivan “To a garden full of posies” (from Ruddigore) a quite lovely song.
-The Britten boy is born - also 1st rate performances & thoroughly rehearsed by the controllers as well as by the performers. Also Britten’s “Boy is born” which is much better than Ceremony of Carols.4
As regards your other query: If you want to give me real pleasure you will organize a performance of my “Sancta Civitas” with all the balances of distant trumpets & chorus & semi-chorus etc beautifully proportioned5. It is my favourite among my own choral works - every one else hates it.
By the way Kirby & his Croydonians6 are sing[ing] at the concert at Dorking somewhere about Oct 12 - & I must go to it - so please don’t clash.
Yours sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams


1.  Head of the music for the BBC Third Programme. He had asked for advice about the forthcoming celebration of the first anniversary of the Third Programme.
On 19th February he had written: Since Dr Hely-Hutchinson invited me to take over Anthony Lewis’s work in the organisation of music in the Third Programme here I have been looking forward to the opportunity of meeting you - if you can spare the time - to talk about one or two plans which I have in mind.  My old friend Steuart Wilson with whom I stay from time to time suggests that you might be able to do with me if I were to come out Leith Hill way one Saturday, and if that would be convenient to you it would be a great pleasure to me. The first idea I have in mind to ask you to think about is this: on September 29th the first anniversary of the inauguration of the Third Programme will occur and on that date we propose to have a full choral and orchestral concerts of works specially written for the occasion - either orchestral, unaccompanied choral or choral and orchestral.  Might you feel inclined to honour us by writing something for this important occasion?  Apart from the big choral and orchestral concert it will also be possible to plan one or two recitals or chamber music concerts of new works written for the occasion during the same week in case you have anything of that kind in mind. 
2.  This probably refers to a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers in an edition by Walter Goehr, done by Morley College under Michael Tippett's direction which VW attended at the Central Hall, Westminster.
3.  Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens, a work much loved by VW.
4.  The repetition is odd. Perhaps VW broke off from the letter for something like a telephone call and when he resumed had forgotten the mention on the previous page.
5.  Catalogue of Works 1925/6.
6.  Alan Kirby conducted the Croydon Philharmonic Society and the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the Sea Symphony and Five Tudor Portraits on 11th October at Dorking Halls in celebration of VW's 75th birthday. See R.V.W.: a biography, p.278.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/17, ff. 105-109
Format: 
Letter
Citation: 
Cobbe 471
Original database number: 
470221