Letter from Michael Tippett to Ralph and Ursula Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
29th Dec. 1956

Tidebrook Manor

Dear Ursula

This is just a very personal letter to thank you both for being so nice to the young fellow, John Minchinton.   It’s been a strange story which isn’t, mercifully, publicisable.  Ten or eleven years ago, or so, he took french leave from School, hitchhiked from Bristol to London and arrived eventually on the doorstep of my little cottage in Limpsfield.  He said he cared for my music & was sure he would be able to be a good conductor one day.
To be picked out a mentor by one so determined and so young was a bit worrying.  But somehow I couldn’t just refuse to help.  I found out and got to know his widowed mother, who had brought up 3 boys by earning as a teacher in an elementary school.  The house was simple and Christian - put it that way.
Neither I, nor John’s mother, had then the means to keep & train him.  So he had a turbulent & frustrated adolescence.  I gave what counsel I might, and what help I could.  I realised quality would tell, if there were any.  He found somehow a group of young people of very nice manners & breeding.  Two good girls were particularly his muses.  And I guess one of them found means to pay his way to master classes with Karajan in Lucerne.  This has proved the turning point.  Karajan released the real technical abilities, and gave him confidence.  From me, I think he has got the sense of tenacity and value for good music of all kinds.  He has his own fanatical interests in standard of performance.
Getting through as a conductor is worse in some ways than as a composer.  He has still a long hard road to go.  But English music needs all she can get.
I’ve had an intuitive desire to tell you a little; for I know you have all human things at heart.  And to thank you and Ralph for being nice to him.  I’m more than pleased now that he finds his own contacts with the great (And I dont know for example how he got to Casals.)  With esteem & affection to you both.

Michael Tippett

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/22, f. 121
Original database number: