Letter from Ernest Irving to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
22nd January, 1948.

Confirming our telephone conversation, I will carefully rehearse the music of no.8 with Mr. Frend and Mr. Cole so that everybody concerned knows of your intentions and appreciates the significance of the music. We will record it with the voices on February 6th., and I will afterwards make what is known as a preliminary dubbing. In this the music will be mixed with the dialogue and shown to you and all concerned with the picture when shot. Its appropriateness and effectiveness can be debated in camera, and if you agree that it should be altered it is quite easy to record a second or even a third version.
There is no objection per se to the use of a vocal theme; it is purely a technical difficulty which has been empirically found to be insoluble. The parallel with “Carnet du Bal”1 is not an exact one as the street music is naturalistic in its origin, the singer having been shown to the audience. We did have some singing, and very effective it was, in the Dungeness scene2, but there was no conversational dialogue.
You may be sure that we shall do our best to bring the thing off, and if it fails it will be for the same reason that Scott failed!
Willie Walton rang me up this morning; very fed up because he has to rewrite the Prelude to the great soliloquy owing to the failure of a camera-laboratory device for dissolving pictures know as an “optical”. Art chained to a magic lantern
“made tongue tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill”3
has annoyed the professors for a long time, but, after all, the function of the music is chiefly ancillary, and the doctors generally find a way round the impasse.

I believe that John Sebastian himself was not without his worries, and perhaps we shall find his “balm for hurt minds” on February 7th.4
Yours ever

Ernest Irving

1.  note.
2.  of the film The Loves of Joanna Godden, CW 1946/2.
3.  quotation from Shakespeare's Sonnet 66.
4.  Irving intended to go to a performance of Bach's St John Passion at Dorking that evening, though in the event was unable to be there.


General notes: 

Carbon copy.
Joyce Hooper sang in this performance (Feb 7 1948) - cf parish magazine of St Martin's Church, Dorking.

Original database number: