Letter from Alan Bush to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
VWL3761
December 26th, 1950.

Dr R. Vaughan Williams, O.M.,
The White House,
Dorking, Surrey.

Dear Dr Vaughan Williams,

Thank you very much indeed on behalf of the Workers' Music Association for permitting the use of your "Flourish" as the opening item of the programme "Singing Englishmen", which is being put on as a contribution to the Festival of Britain.  I note that you qualify this permission with the words "unless meanwhile you think of something else".  Naturally we shall be most honoured if you compose a special work, but we should be more than content with the "Flourish", if you find yourself unable to give the time to the composition of a new piece.

Evidently the synopsis which I sent you did not make one point clear.  It is not proposed that the programme should consist only of unison songs.  It is true that in the final section there are three unsion songs, but in this section three other songs are also included, one of which is actually in six parts, the remainder in the normal four; beside this all the folk-songs, which involve chorus at all, will be set in parts, either for female, male, or mixed chorus.

Your letter suggests that you disagree in some way with the sub-title of the programme.  It is described as:
Singing Englishmen
a Feature-Programme of Workers' Songs in British Life
The programme is a historical one, starting with a peasant song of the 14th Century, and continuing through the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries down to the present day.  Apart from the songs of the present all those chosed are either work-songs, folk-songs, or songs associated with social movements such as the peasant revolt of 1381, the Diggers, the Chartists, etc.,  All these songs were created and sung by workers.  (Landowners in 1381 did not work on the land, neither did they in the time of the Diggers; in fact the principle that the worker on the land should own it, was the one for which the Diggers' movement was destroyed by Cromwell's troops.)

It is true that in the section entitled "Life, Liberty, an the Pursuit of Happiness", and which comprises the songs of living British composers, we have not included any songs expressing the thoughts and feelings of toiling landowners or works managers.  But this ommission is as much due to an oversight or even ignorance of the existence of such songs on the part of the selection Committee as to any wish on their part to exclude any form of expression contributory to the heading of the section.

Again thanking you for your deeply valued contribution to the programme,

Yours very sincerely,

Location of copy:

Format: 
Letter
Original database number: 
Bush