Celebrating Vaughan Williams

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Celebrating Vaughan Williams


2022 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the great symphonists of the twentieth century. This year’s Newbury Spring Festival celebrates his work with a series of special Vaughan Williams events.

On Saturday 14th May, the middle weekend of the two-week festival, the BBC Symphony Orchestra come to St Nicolas church. As part of the BBC’s complete cycle of Vaughan Williams’ symphonies, Ryan Wigglesworth will conduct the rarely performed Symphony No. 4, described by Walton as the ‘greatest symphony since Beethoven’. The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. 

In 1904 the agnostic Vaughan Williams set about introducing folk song into The English Hymnal. This revolutionary hymn book was the brainchild of Percy Dearmer, who wanted to rid the Anglican church of turgid 19th-century hymn tunes. After the project had been concluded, Vaughan Williams admitted that his work on The English Hymnal had been ‘a better musical education than any amount of sonatas and fugues’. Those interested in finding out more about Vaughan Williams and his role in introducing folk song to the English Hymnal can join professor Jeremy Summerly for a talk, From Hedgerow to Pew at St George’s Church on Thursday 12th May. 


On Sunday 15th May, the Tredegar Town Band (famous for their contribution to the BAFTA Award-winning film, Pride) will present an afternoon concert performing major works by Ralph Vaughan Williams (which they will be recording for a new CD). Gavin Higgins and other leading composers will also feature as well as solos from some of the finest brass performers in world banding.


The Festival Service at 6pm on Sunday 8th May at St John’s Church is free to attend and attendees can enjoy a performance from The Carice Singers,  one of the most distinctive vocal ensembles in the UK. The choir will be singing the Vaughan Williams Mass in G. The Mass setting will be paired with an Introit from Tallis and the anthem “A Hymne to Christ” written by Imogen Holst, one of Vaughan Williams’ pupils.


On Friday 13th May at Holy Cross Church in Ramsbury, Words Spoken and Sung weaves together works by Purcell, Liszt, Vaughan Williams, Holub, Shakespeare, Auden, and more to create a wonderful mix celebrating words, spoken and sung from the 16th to the 20th Century.


Petroc Trelawny, star of BBC radio and television and face of Cardiff Singer of the World joins mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones and tenor Ben Johnson, both Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize Winners at Cardiff Singer of the World, and accompanist Tom Primrose, (Newbury Spring Festival’s Chorus Master), for an evening of song, poetry, and letters.


The Festival sees a Masterclass from celebrated violinist, Tasmin Little on Saturday 14th May. Little is highly regarded for her interpretation of RVW’s music and is RVW150 Ambassador.

As part of the RVW 150 launch event, Tasmin spoke about the enduring popularity of RVW’s music: “Often thought of as the father of modern British music, his works remain a firm fixture on the concert stages of the UK, as well as abroad. But why is his music so enduringly popular, resonating with people of all ages and nationalities?  Is it perhaps because there’s an emotional honesty to his writing which audiences respond to? I remember, as a young girl, being intensely drawn to his music – the distinctly personal style, the imagination, power, beauty. His language is one which can be appreciated on so many levels.” 

Whether you are a fan of Vaughan Williams already or merely curious to know more, Newbury Spring Festival will showcase some of the finest interpretations of his work. A treat for anybody who loves music. 

There is, of course, more to the programme than Vaughan Williams and while Newbury Spring Festival is best-known for its classical music, the diverse range of events draws from all areas of the music including folk, world, Jazz, Tango and more. To find out more visit www.newburyspringfestival.org.uk.