Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Committee of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust

Letter No.: 
October 29th 1956


This trust is the invention of my friend and accountant, Mr. Sturgess, who I am glad to say is here today to explain the business side of things - of which I am quite incapable.
This trust is not an act of generosity, but of common sense.  Donations to charity are, I understand, free of income tax so that if I can arrange to give a portion of my earnings to musical charity I shall not have to pay on that portion.  In fact I shall be merely robbing Peter to pay Paul: and though I have no desire to rob Peter of his dues, I wish, in the words of John Bright, to be ‘sorry five pounds’ for Paul.  To this end we applied to the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund and they, through their Secretary, Frank Thistleton, have kindly agreed to sponsor a Trust to be administered under their aegis. Mr Thistleton will be Secretary, and the gentlemen who are down on your list have agreed to form a Committee. As you see this consists partly of musicians and partly of laymen.
Now, as to the objects of the trust: these will combine all the objects which come under the terms of reference of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, but especially, the following, in which I have a great interest:-
(Before giving you the list, I must tell you that the Funds of the Trust will be the total amount of my earnings under the P.R.S.  Last year these came to about £18,000 and as the amount has been steadily rising year by year, we may expect at least as much this year, though we shall not know the exact figure until December, when the chief amounts come in.  The sums therefore in the following lists are calculated on the £18,000 basis, but as Mr. Sturgess will explain to you later it is not advisable to make them so large the first year.  Here then is the list of what I consider desirable objects, and the sums opposite them I propose should be annual until further notice except where particularly remarked.)
A. The financing of public performances of musical works which are not
likely to be profitable.

 Concert of Holst’s music by the L.P.O. under Adrian Boult on
December 10th    Guarantee: (single payment)  £1500.
 New Opera Society. Tale of Two Cities.    Guarantee £500.

B. Financing of copying or publication of music which is not
likely to have a ready sale:  say   £250.

C. Financing of books and magazines of educational value.
Music and Letters  £100.

D. Grants to Musical Festivals.
 Leith Hill Festival  £500
 Federation of Musical Festivals  £250.
 St Cecilia’s Day Church Festival  £100.

E. The advancement of public education in music.
(This is rather a vague term, but includes most things that cannot
be got in elsewhere.)

 English Folk Song and Dance Society.  General Purposes £500.
  Library. £500.
 The McNaughten1 New Music Society . £50.
 International Council of Folk Music   £500.
 Royal Philharmonic Society  £250.
 Dorking Bach Choir. £100.
 St. Michael’s Singers. £100.
 Newbury String Players  £100.
 Arnold Foster Choir. £100.
 South Western Arts Society (single donation)   £50.
 Oxford Orchestral Society   £50.
 Society for the Promotion of New Music   £250.
 The Cygnet Company (Children’s Plays)   £50.
 Various small donations, e.g. Surrey Philharmonic Society,
 say, about £50.
 Composer’s Guild  £50.
 Renaissance Singers  £50.
 Rural Music Schools   £50.
 Purcell Society  (single donation)   £500.

F. Assistance to musicians and students of music to further
 musical education.
 Morley College Music Department. £100.
 Geoffrey Shaw Fund.  £250.
 Butterworth Trust  £500.

G. The relieving of poverty among musicians.

 I am not in favour of spending much on this, as I think it is already
well provided for.  But I would like to consider particular cases,
and I have three in my mind at present.

 Mrs. Holst (1956 - £50)  £250
 Dr. Martin Shaw  (1956 - £25) £250.
 British Musicians’ Pension Fund  £250.3

 I am not in favour of granting scholarships, except in particular circumstances as this is well cared for elsewhere, nor would I wish the fund to be used to augment the income of teaching colleges.

 I would ask the Committee not to make any single  allocation of £100 or over without consulting me.

The sums given above amount to about £8,000 or less. But Mr. Sturgess warns me that for reasons he will presently give you that this will have to be scaled down for the first year.  The Holst Concert however will require immediate payment.
Now there is one other point about our income that we must consider. My performing fees have lately been increasing, but these, as you know, depend entirely on the whim of a fickle public, and they may at any time begin to decline, and even go down to nothing.  I am therefore advised that we ought to invest some of our money.  I agree to this, within limits, nevertheless in my opinion, the money is there primarily to be spent and not hoarded.
Finally, I wish to thank all my friends who have helped me with their knowledge and experience in forming this trust; and also those who are so kindly giving their skill and their time to this Committee.2
R. Vaughan Williams.

1. recte Macnaghten.
2. This letter sets out the main guidelines which the R.V.W. Trust was to follow for the next fifty years. The only point he does not make is an instruction he later gave to the Trust that he did not wish it to support any performances of his own work.
3. It is not clear whether this line should be struck through or is a misalignment of underlining by the typist.

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