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     Vaughan Williams, Ralph (12th October 1872-26th August 1958)

    He was an English composer, whose first name is pronounced in the Old-English style of "Rafe", born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, to a prominent English family with his father being a vicar, his great-great-great grandfather being the celebrated potter Josiah Wedgwood and his great uncle being the discoverer of evolution and author of The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.  He studied at Charterhouse School and the Royal College of Music where he admitted of the piano "I never could play" and that "the violin was my musical salvation".  From there he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and would also return to the Royal College of Music as a pupil of Hubert Parry to study composition.  Although his career was taking shape with him lecturing, editing music and conducting, he was a slow starter on the compositional front and did not publish his first work, "Linden Lea", until he was 30.  After this late entrance into composing he travelled to Berlin in 1897 to study with Max Bruch and then moved on to Paris to continue with Maurice Ravel.  After his return to England, a few years, in 1904, he became aware of the nation's disappearing traditional folk songs and worked tirelessly searching them out, preserving and transcribing them.  He would use these discoveries as a basis for some of his works lest they be forgotten and these can be heard in works such as "Fantasia on Greensleeves" and in adaptations for many hymns and carols such as "O Little Town of Bethlehem".  Continuing his work as a conductor he was requested to lead the Leith Hill Music Festival in 1905 and he would do this every year until 1953.  Slowly moving into the world of theatre he composed music the incidental music for The Wasps and over the next few years he gained much acclaim for his premieres of  "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" and his first two symphonies, The Sea Symphony and A London Symphony.  Everything stopped in 1914 when WWI broke out and although he did not have to enlist, as he was already 40 years old, he chose to join the Royal Army Medical Corps in Flanders as a stretcher-bearer, but before long he was commissioned by the Royal Garrison Artillery.  The war took its toll, as it did on so many, and the constant gunfire would eventually contribute to his loss of hearing in later life, but even when he was so ill he couldn't stand up, he insisted on directing his battery while lying down.  In 1918 he managed to get back to his previous life with music when he was given the position of Director of Music, First Army and his compositions would become what has been described as "profoundly mystical" after the end of his service, no doubt as he remembered lost friends such as the composer George Butterworth.  In 1924 his works began to gain a more lively style and during this period he composed two ballets, Old King Cole and Job aside from many other choral and orchestral works.  Throughout the ensuing years, and over the course of a second World War he would continue releasing works on a regular basis and at the same time conducted the Bach Choir and lectured in both England and America.  Continuing well into his 70s, after many thought that he would slow down, or retire, he found a second wind and produced an arrangement of "The Old One Hundredth Psalm" for the Queen Elizabeth II coronation, another four symphonies, choral and instrumental works between 1943 and 1958.  Having a long association with the movie industry his works have appeared in at least 23 movies and television programmes.  Recognised for his services to music he held the position of president of the English Folk dance and Song Society and had the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library named in his honour.  He was also offered a knighthood, which he declined, but in 1935 was awarded the Order of Merit.  Due to supervise the recording of his ninth symphony, to be conducted by Sir Adrian Boult on the 27th August 1958 at the age of 87, he sadly died the night before and never saw the finished result.  The recording did go ahead, however, as a memorial to its composer.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.rvwsociety.com/biography.html
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Vaughan_Williams
    3. http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0891002/
    4. http://www.agentsmith.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=5
    5. http://www.answers.com/topic/ralph-vaughan-williams

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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