Illustrated Talk - Ralph Vaughan Williams

November 15, 2014

The Ralph Vaughan William’s Society is a charity dedicated to widening the understanding and appreciation of the music of Ralph Vaughan William’s. Graham Muncy, a founding member and trustee, was well placed to talk to the members of the Music Society about the composer. It was fitting in this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War that Graham was able to explain the significant effect this had had on Vaughan Williams, his music and compositions at that time.

Having already composed the ever popular “Lark Ascending” in the summer of 1914, which seemed to capture the tranquillity of the languid days before the outbreak of the Great War, his world was soon to change quite dramatically. At the age of 44 in November 1914 he chose to enlist as a private in the Royal Army Medical corps signing up for a 4 year tour of duty.

However extensive training meant he first saw action in France in 1916 heading for Ecoivres, a few miles north-west of Arras, on the slopes of Vimy Ridge assisting in the task of evacuating the wounded. Like Philip Larkin what he saw had a profound effect on him and his music and Graham played several extracts from compositions reflecting the more sombre mood existing in the country at that time.

Graham went on to explain that RVW’s music had been largely ignored since his death in August 1958 and the Society was formed in 1994 to ensure his legacy as a quintessential English composer was not forgotten. He also had local connections when in 1913 he conducted the small orchestra at the Stratford-on-Avon season. He was knowledgeable about Shakespeare which proved invaluable when he composed his opera “Sir John in Love”

Society chairman, Richard Baldwin, concluded the evening with a vote of thanks to Graham, reflecting on the insight he had afforded members of the Society and thanking him for a superb presentation illustrated with music.

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