New commissions for RVW150

With characteristic generosity, Vaughan Williams set up the RVW Trust  in 1956 to support the work of his fellow composers. Funded by the performing royalties from his music, it has given around £6 million in grants averaging £2,200 each in the last 20 years alone. To celebrate RVW150, the RVWT has supported a number of special projects which are inspired by or responding to RVW’s music, ideas, or life. 

Music for Brass Band

Saints Triumphant: variations on Vaughan Williams’s hymn tune ‘Sine Nomine’ was composed by Philip Wilby and commissioned by Brass Bands England as the test piece for the European Brass Band Championship, and will be premiered at the European Brass Band Festival on 30 April.

The work is approximately 15 minutes’ duration and scored for full brass band. Among the 13 performing groups will be Foden’s Band (England), Cory Band (Wales), Tredegar Band (Wales) and The Cooperation Band (Scotland). There will also be a live performance by one of the above at the Royal Northern College of Music Brass Band Festival in January 2023.

New Songs of Travel

Thaxted Music Festival and Music at Paxton Festival have co-commissioned emerging composer Sarah Cattley to compose a song cycle on the themes of travel and nature to complement Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel.

Both cycles will be performed at the festivals in July by baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Susie Allan together with songs by friends and pupils of RVW: George Butterworth, Ruth Gipps, Rebecca Clarke, Gerald Finzi, Elizabeth Maconchy and Ivor Gurney.

Looking West – ideas of pilgrimage

Looking West, a concert-theatre work from composer Julian Philips and librettist Rebecca Hurst, is a co-commission and co-production between Nova Music Opera and the Ryedale and Presteigne festivals 

The work uses ideas of Pilgrimage to unlock key themes that thread through RVW’s life and work and will be toured in the UK during the summer and autumn of 2022. The vocal soloists are Rebecca Bottone soprano and Rebecca Afonwy-Jones mezzo-soprano. Nova Music Opera’s own ensemble will be conducted by artistic director George Vass. The stage director will be Richard Williams.   

Coming together to sing

Looking ahead to 2023, The Royal Philharmonic Society will commission Grace-Evangeline Mason to write a new choral piece suitable for both professional and amateur choirs inspired by the music, ideas and life of RVW.

The piece will be a 12-to-15-minute work for a large choir of mixed voices, up to 150 singers, with accompaniment from piano and a solo stringed instrument. Its first performers will be the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award winners Bristol Choral Society and their Music Director Hilary Campbell and the premiere will be in March 2023 at Bristol Cathedral. Ralph Vaughan Williams received the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1930 and was commissioned by the RPS to write his 9th Symphony.

What the Lark Saw – Gloucestershire communities tell their stories

Rounding up the 150 celebrations, the Three Choirs Festival in RVW’s home county of Gloucestershire will present a new community led creative programme to run in conjunction with the main festival programme in 2023.

What the Lark Saw brings together different strands of RVW’s work, seeding musical ideas from The Lark Ascending and folk song and inspiration from Wordsworth’s description of the lark as a ‘pilgrim of the sky’. With the notion of pilgrimage so innately connected to the cathedrals that host the festival each year, the project will travel out into communities, making use of the Three Choirs Way long distance walking path and the waterways that connect the three cathedral cities, to collect stories and ‘modern day folk tales’ which will be used as the source of creative responses in a wide variety of mediums (working with a collective of local artists, writers and performers). Bringing together these responses will be a central song cycle/cantata ‘picture frame’ which will be created by Gloucestershire-based composer Liz Lane.

RVW150 – the celebration of Ralph Vaughan Williams 150 years after his birth and co-ordinated by our sister charity the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust – extends through 2022-3 at home and abroad. Find out more