Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Malcolm Sargent

Letter No.: 
Sunday [23 June 1929]

13 Cheyne Walk – SW3

Dear Sargent

Thank you so much for the tickets on Friday.1
It was a wonderful spectacle and I enjoyed it very much.  But my present feeling is that ‘Hugh’ will not do at all as it stands.  All the quick action & dialogue will have to be scrapped and practically a new opera written introducing as much as possible [of] the old music.  I feel that this is not impossible, but the question is who is to do it?
After seeing the show on Friday I have fairly definite ideas of what I should like which might not agree with yours.
Would it be therefore better – supposing of course that the thing comes off at all – for me to be out of it altogether & the show described as “arranged by M.S from the opera by RVW”
Supposing I do take it on (of course in cooperation with you) there are certain things I don’t want.  The ordinary kind of ballet – such as you had in Hiawatha would to my mind be entirely unsuitable – more especially if it was given the ordinary theatrical producer’s touch of “rusticity”.
How about cooperating with the English Folk Dance Society?  e.g we could have some real country Dances danced by the massed dancers and when the Morris men come in one of their picked teams could dance the Morris dance.  And a thing like the Abbot’s Bromley Horn dance makes a magnificent spectacle in the Albert Hall as I know by experience.  It would correspond to one of your slow processions in Hiawatha.  Also, some folk songs in chorus might be well introduced while the crowd was being brought on at the beginning of Act 1.
I think we might usefully co-opt a third partner Gordon Jacob by preference to do the scoring and some of the practical carpentry which he would do much better than me.  Anyhow I suggest the following of my music which might be used when additional music was required.
(1) Wasp’s Suite (not the Overture)
(2) Old King Cole Ballet (these are both Curwen)
(3) Folk Song Suite (Boosey)
(4) March on Sea Songs (Boosey)
(5) Toccata Marziale (Hawkes)
(6) Charterhouse Suite (Stainer & Bell)
(7) Folk dances for Ballet “Xmas Carol”
(8) Music to May Day Pageant
(9) Music to “Pan’s Anniversary”

These last 3 are in M.S. but I could send them to you if you wish to look at them.
This letter has the appearance of taking the thing as settled but I have only done this from convenience & I know really that everything is vague at present.2
yours sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams

1. Sargent had invited VW to a performance at the Albert Hall of Hiawatha by Coleridge Taylor and at the same time had proposed that he should adapt Hugh the Drover (of which he had conducted the first public performance on 14 July 1924) for performance there the following year, inter alia by introducing ballets.  VW responds to his various suggestions.
2. Although the correspondence closes with Sargent planning to proceed with his adaptation with VW’s blessing, the project never went ahead.

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In the hand of AVW.
Sargent had written to VW on Monday 17 June. VW replied the following Sunday, 23 June. Sargent’s letter in reply to this letter was sent on Monday 24 June.

Cobbe 176
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