Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Penelope Spencer

Letter No.: 
VWL656
[Third week of January 1929]

The Brown House
Cliff Drive
Canford Cliffs
Dorset

Dear Miss Spencer

Many thanks for your letter.
I fear I shall not be able to be in London till Thursday week Feb 1 – I hope this will not delay your preparations.1
In answer to your questions
(1)  The only two boy fairies which are important are the “Fairy in green” & the “Fairy in white” who dance with Slender & Caius – If you can persuade them not to be too self conscious, “boyish” & bumptious certainly have girls.
(2) As to the dances – they also must not be self consciously Hobbley-hoyish & “Rustic” – neither must they be “Dainty” – can you strike a happy mean?
There are 4 chief dances in the Act:
(a) At the beginning of Sc. 2 which I imagine to be more a mysterious assembling & dispersal of the characters more than a set dance
(2)2 The dance where the fairies 1st appear to Falstaff
(3) The main fairies dance – Here Slender, Caius, Fenton & Ann have to dance – are you prepared to teach them as well as your trained dancers?
(4) The dance round Falstaff after the fairies have gone – more of a procession than a dance (here also the actors have to dance!)
(5) The final country dance “Half Hanikin” – I want this to be the real dance belonging to the tune & every one should finally join in somehow. (Also a few steps of dance between the verses of the final song).
Yrs ever

R. Vaughan Williams


1. Penelope Spencer began working for the Royal College of Music in 1923 as Ballet Mistress, a position she held for sixteen years until 1939, and for which she was awarded 'Hon. RCM' in 1928. She was preparing the dances for the first production of Sir John in Love (Catalogue of Works 1928/3) for its first performance which took place at the Royal College of Music on 21st March 1929.
2. VW absent-mindedly changed his numeration from (a) to (2) over the page.

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Location of original letter:

Format: 
Letter
Citation: 
Cobbe 173
Original database number: 
290121