Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Michael and Eslyn Kennedy

Letter No.: 
April 20th 1953.

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

Dear Michael and Eslyn,

Thank you so much for your letter.  Yes, after forty years, I think it is time to resign from the Leith Hill Festival before my hair comes off and the rest of my teeth drop out.  But I will go on conducting the Passion if they ask me.
I enjoyed your article about Antartica1 very much; didn’t I write and tell you so?  I know that the wind machine must remain.  I know its not a musical sound but nor is the side drums, and no-one objects to that.  The most satisfactory version is in the record made of some of the music as actually used in the film.  The Manchester one didn’t satisfy me entirely.  The horns were my suggestion; you may remember that at one of the Manchester rehearsals one of the horns started whistling through his instrument and that gave me the hint; and when I didn’t like the little tin trumpets that Malcolm Sargent produced, I suggested the horns, and they seemed alright at rehearsal.  But for some reason at performance, at all events over the wireless, they didn’t seem right.
Do you know Haydn “Imperial” Mass?2 A magnificent work.  We did it at our Festival last week.
I sympathise with your doubts over Larry’s Piece.3 I was surprised myself when it turned out a “best seller”.
I too am sorry that the Howells work4 is so difficult, I rather think that the double chorus is quite unnescessary we couldn’t possibly do it here at Dorking.
I am glad you like the new Barnes song.5
We are leaving for London in July, so you must come and see us there.6
Love from us both to you both,


1.  i.e. Sinfonia antartica (Catalogue of Works 1952/2)
2.  Better known as the ‘Nelson’ Mass, Hob. XXII/11.
3.  i.e. Larry Adler, and the Romance for Harmonica (Catalogue of Works 1951/4).
4.  Hymnus Paradisi (1938).
5.  In the Spring, Catalogue of Works 1952/1.
6.  In fact the VWs moved to Hanover Terrace in September.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, f.16
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed. This letter printed in part in Michael Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, pp.382-3.

Cobbe 610; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.382-383
Original database number: