Internal BBC memorandum to the Home News Editor from Sir Adrian Boult

Letter No.: 
April 18th 1947

Dr R. Vaughan Williams, D.M.

I happened to be asked to go down and give away the prizes at the revival of the Leith [Hill] Music Festival, which has been conducted by Vaughan Williams for, I believe, something like 30 years.  I was particularly asked to give the audience some idea of what he has done during the war and the whole list is so impressive that I venture to pass it on to you in case anyone who reads this may feel that it may be useful in any celebrations of his 75th birthday.
He kept on composing, of course.  A great deal of work was done on two symphonies, the magnificent “Thanksgiving for Victory”1, which our religious Broadcasting Department commissioned, a number of smaller works, and I believe some films were all in his war contribution.  He also collected a choir from former Leith Hill Festival adherents and rehearsed them every week regularly.  They gave two concerts each year and in addition five annual performances of the St Matthew Passion.  He also organised a large number of concerts at Toc H for troops, and had a great deal to do with what was called ‘An Informal Hour of Music’.  These events were fortnightly and went on for many years.
Apart from music, he did a good deal of fire-watching.  Incidentally I believe he translated Bach’s B minor Mass into English while doing this.  He went round with a hand-cart collecting salvage.  He also took on a weekly War Savings’ collection.  Besides this there was a good deal of extra gardening, fire-fighting classes, Chairmanship of a Refugee Committee, and several days devoted to helping with the organisation of the evacuees at the outbreak of war.
This is, I think, an immense record for a man who in a few months will be 75.  One is tempted to think of certain of his colleagues both in this and former wars who simply shut themselves up and went on with their music.
Adrian Boult


1. Catalogue of Works 1944/4.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW artist
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Cobbe 474
Original database number: