Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the children of the Parents’ Union School, Ambleside

Letter No.: 
February, 1951

A small girl was once having a music lesson. Her teacher gave her a new piece to learn, which she explained was composed by a well-known musician who had lately visited the school. “But,” said the little girl, in great bewilderment, “I thought all composers were dead.”
Have we really been taught that all composers are dead? Then indeed our art is dead. Vital art must1 be creative.
It has been said that we should stand in the present with one eye on the past and one on the future. Let us by all means build our house on the foundations of the great masters, but let us remember that the composers of our own time and of our own country have something to say to us which even the greatest masters of the past age cannot give us; that is the only way we can build a great future for our music.
We must not let the dead lion swallow up the living dog.
R. Vaughan Williams.

1. 'much' in the typed copy


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1116, ff.149-150
General notes: 

Enclosed in a letter dated 19th February 1951 from the [?] music mistress of the Parents' Union School, Elizabeth Molyneux, to Cedric Glover who apparently asked VW for a message on the school’s behalf. In the letter she says: ‘I am delighted with the result of your approach to Dr. Vaughan Williams on our behalf and I am sending you a copy of his message to the children which will certainly convey the impression that we are studying a living composer!’.

Cobbe 549
Original database number: