Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the conductors and the choirs of the Leith Hill Musical Festival

Letter No.: 
VWL2974
24th March, 1949.

The White Gates,
Dorking.

Dear Conductors and Chorus,

As you know, I was rather disheartened at the early rehearsals of the “Passion” this year.  Well - I ought to have known better.  I ought to have remembered that you never let down either L.H.M.F. or J.S.B.
Not only was the performance technically the best we have given, but it had a quality of flow in the phrases and an understanding of the real meaning of the music greater than we have formerly achieved.  A friend, who is also a very fine musician writes: “I have never heard a performance of the “Passion” in which the chorus seemed to have caught its spirit better, but not only had they caught the spirit of the work but they were technically equal to it.”1
When next you meet I want you to tell your Conductor what you feel about going on next year.  Now we have got so far it seems a pity to take our hands from the plough.  In a way the work will be easier because we shall know it better, but from another point of view harder, because more will be expected of us.
I am now 76 years old and the time must come before long when I shall have to relinquish the honour of conducting you, but I feel sure that you will show, through my successor, the same loyal devotion that you have always shown to great music and its greatest composer.
I like to think that our performance of the “Passion” will never cease and that when you in your turn are unable to cope with your high Soprano A’s and low bass D’s, that the younger generation will be there, ready to step into the ranks from which you have reluctantly fallen out.2
Yours sincerely,

R. Vaughan Williams


1.  Herbert Byard. VW’s response to his letter is VWL2973.
2.  On the background to this letter see R.V.W.: a biography, p.290. The choir had performed both the St John and the St Matthew Passions and VW was feeling tired and ill.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
LHMF Records
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Format: 
Letter
Citation: 
Cobbe 517
Original database number: 
490324a