Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Mr Gray

Letter No.: 
Jan 3rd [1938]

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,


Dear Mr. Gray
Thank you very much for your interesting letter. One of the best things about writing composing is that it enables one to make friends with people on the other side of the world whom one has never met and perhaps never will meet. I hope that one day there will be more opportunities in countries such as yours of hearing orchestral and choral music at first hand. Meanwhile the gramophone is a great resource. Do you see that Sibelius’ 4th Symphony has just been recorded? I certainly share your admiration of that composer. He has conclusively proved that it is possible to say something absolutely new in music without straying off the great highway of tradition.
Please remember me to my old friend Mr. Walmsley – I recollect so well his splendid performance of ‘Shallow’1 – It may interest you to know that my F minor Symphony has just been recorded by H.M.V.  A great many people do not like it and I am not quite sure whether I like it myself now though I believe I did while I was writing it.
Let me know if you ever come to England.
Yours sincerely
R Vaughan Williams

1. Alfred Walmsley had sung the role of Robert Shallow in the first (amateur) performance of VW's opera Sir John in Love at the Royal College of Music on 21 March 1929. He lived in New Zealand and led the Dunedin Choral Society and the Royal Dunedin Male Choir. 


Location of original letter:

General notes: 

Date extrapolated from reference to VW's F minor symphony having been 'just recorded'; this was in late 1937 so the letter must be from January 1938. The correspondent has not been identified, but was presumably in New Zealand.