Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Stanford Robinson (BBC)

Letter No.: 
September 28th, 1949.

The White Gates,
Dorking, Surrey.

Dear Stanford Robinson,

I have only heard vague rumours about the broadcasts of “Hugh”.1
As far as I remember the last broadcast was very good and I do not want to change anything.  I do not remember much of the letter I wrote, but what you quote of it seems quite good.
I should like to meet you about it when next I come to London.  I don’t suppose there is any chance that you would be free on Saturday October 1st?  I have to attend a wedding in London that day at 2.30, so I ought to leave you about 2 o’clock, or even 1.45.  If this is impossible I will try and arrange another date soon.
I have had a letter from Trefor Jones asking if there is a part for him.  As you doubtless know he is a fine singer and an experienced actor and has sung the part before and he would quite satisfy me, but I expect your cast is already made up.
Yours sincerely,

R Vaughan Williams

1. Hugh the Drover (Catalogue of Works 1924/2). Robinson had written  on 26th September: ‘I am glad to be able to tell you, if you have not already heard, that the directors of the B.B.C.’s Third Programme are proposing to give six performances of “Hugh, the Drover” during the coming season.  I should naturally like the performances to be in full accord with your wishes.  You wrote me a very helpful letter on the 11th May, 1942 after the last broadcasts, suggesting the curtailment of the Fair Scene.  Would you like us to curtail it this time, and what would you like us to do about the other scenes which you added since the original performances at the Royal College of Music?  There is, of course, plenty of time for them as they are on the Third Programme, but you may feel they make the opera unnecessarily long.  I, myself, am quite open-minded about it.
In the matter of narration there are two schools of thought: one which believes in having the minimum amount possible (usually pre-Act) and expects the listeners to know what is happening, even when the opera is not sung in English: and the other school which considers a certain amount of intermediate narration necessary for the enjoyment of the listener in order that he may be able to follow the words as the opera unfolds itself.  In your letter of 1942 you say, “I would like more of the narrator – if you have a narrator at all.  I would like plenty of him.”  We could have narration at every performance, but we could easily do it both ways.  Say on the two occasions when the performances are placed near together, i.e. on the 29th and 31st October and again later on the 10th and 13th March we could do the first of the two with narration to explain it to everybody and the second of the pair without narration.  We could even advertise in the Radio Times that one performance will be with narration and the other without and then listeners would be able to choose according to their tastes if they did not wish to hear both.  I think it is better to have the narrated performance first so that those listeners who do hear it twice will have a pretty clear idea of it all during the second unnarrated performance.  The other two more isolated dates are the 27th December and the 16th May, 1950.
If you could possibly spare the time on one of your visits to London I should love to take you out to lunch so that we might talk the whole thing over.  If you could let me have a choice of dates I should be most grateful, the sooner the better.’


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 910, VW composer
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Original database number: