Extract from the Observer Sunday 6th March 2022
Plans to mark the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth have been years in the making, but no one could have imagined how prescient last weekend’s Manchester launch event would turn out to be. On a night when Russian tanks were encroaching further into Ukraine, two of the composer’s finest symphonies – both conceived in time of war, both firmly rejecting military bombast – sent a message of hope and a vision of peace out into the anxious air.
The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust has worked hard to prime concerts and festivals with his music this year. You are bound to find several near you. And to understand just how deeply RVW’s music runs through the nation’s bloodstream, from June a project entitled From Pub to Pulpit will visit several cathedrals, showing how the composer “borrowed” the folk songs he collected when he edited The English Hymnal. O Little Town of Bethlehem? That’s The Ploughboy’s Dream. Or To Be a Pilgrim? That’s the shanty Our Captain Cried All Hands. Who knew?