During 2022-23 the music industry will celebrate the 150th birthday of British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958); a commemoration of international significance, with performances, recordings, publications and associated events, and the last major anniversary before his works go out of copyright.  Due to the effect of the pandemic, celebrations will be taking place up to and well beyond the birthday on 12th October this year.  Ralph Vaughan Williams’s legacy In a long and productive life, hardly a music genre has been left untouched or failed to be enriched by Vaughan Williams’s work, which includes nine symphonies, five operas, music for film, ballet and stage, several song cycles, church music and works for chorus and orchestra. 
The popularity of the composer’s most accessible works, in particular the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and The Lark Ascending, has never been higher, with radio polls* consistently voting these as listeners’ favourites, while the Symphony No.5 is one of the most popular of British symphonies** with the Romanza theme voted as one of the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Melodies’***.
Amongst internationally renowned champions of the composer, conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis (the Society’s President), Martyn Brabbins, Andrew Manze, Sir Mark Elder, Martin Yates and John Wilson, have all recorded symphony cycles or conducted the composer’s major works both in the UK and abroad to widespread acclaim.  Most recently, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Antonio Pappano and Esa-Pekka Salonen have also conducted symphonies.
21st-century musicians who have acknowledged Vaughan Williams’s influence on their development include John Adams, PJ Harvey, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle, Anthony Payne, Wayne Shorter, Neil Tennant, Richard Thompson and Mark-Anthony Turnage.
The fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death in 2008, saw a major reappraisal of this giant of twentieth-century music, with two contrasting new documentary films; John Bridcut’s The Passions of Vaughan Williams and Tony Palmer’s O Thou Transcendent: The Life of Vaughan Williams.

 Opportunity for the widest range of performances during ‘RVW150’The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is working with a number of partner organisations in raising awareness of ‘RVW150’, supporting external activities and connecting with potential promoters, performers, publicists, media, and record labels.  The anniversary provides an opportunity for the widest range of performances internationally, both amateur and professional, with many of the UK’s national orchestras and choirs, regional concert promoters and festivals planning to programme works by Vaughan Williams and his students to mark the occasion.  An overseas campaign is reaching out to promoters, particularly in the USA and Japan. Exhibitions and seminars are also planned.

Pastoral Symphony centenary – RVW’s requiem for his fallen friends
2022 sees the centenary of the first performance of the composer’s contemplative Symphony No.3 (Pastoral), which was given by the Orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society under Adrian Boult in the Queen’s Hall on 26 January 1922.  The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is hosting a special online event for members to commemorate the occasion.Vaughan Williams took three years off his age in order to volunteer for the army during the 1914-1918 war; after a long period of training and waiting he was sent to France in 1916, serving as a wagon orderly in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Later, he was given a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery and found himself in charge of both guns and horses. The carnage and the loss of close friends such as the composer George Butterworth deeply affected him and influenced his music after the war.  

The Edge of Beyond – Ralph Vaughan Williams in the First World War
by Stephen Connock, published by Albion Music

‘Vaughan Williams: A 150th anniversary celebration’
A highlight of the year is a new publication entitled ‘Vaughan Williams: A 150th anniversary celebration’ published by Choir & Organ as the official Collectors’ Edition celebrating the composer’s life and works and produced in association with the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, the membership group dedicated to widening the understanding and appreciation of the composer and his music.

Vaughan Williams: A 150th anniversary celebration of the man and his music
Published by Choir & Organ as the official Collectors’ Edition celebrating the composer’s life and works and produced in association with the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society.
On sale from 11 January and available to pre-order now: 
The publication presents a broad cross-section of Vaughan Williams’s works, drawing partly on archive materials from the Society’s Journal and from Choir & Organ, alongside new features specially written by Society members and freelance writers.  Contributors include Society vice-president Roderick Williams, Nicky Spence, Kitty Whately, Mark Bebbington, Andrew Burn, David Hill, Geraint Lewis, David Wordsworth, Andrew Keener, David Goode and Tasmin Little.  Archive contributions come from the late Michael Kennedy, the composer’s musical biographer and friend, and conductor and British music advocate Richard Hickox.

Gramophone has supplied review material, complemented by the Society’s select bibliography and listening guide – the latter reflecting different aspects of the composer’s multi-faceted personality and style.  Today’s conductor champions have provided reminiscences of performing Vaughan Williams, with the Society’s President, Sir Andrew Davis, writing the Foreword.  Finally, an exclusive compilation CD, with 26 tracks drawn from 20 Albion Records (the Society’s recording arm), aids further listening.Albion Records – Forthcoming recordings include major premiere of Pan’s Anniversary

Albion Records has a full programme of releases for 2022 with a number of world premiere recordings. 

In January, the first recording of A London Symphony, played as a piano duet by Lynn Arnold and Charles Matthews.

In March, the first recording of the 1923 Communion Service in G minor, the English version of the Mass, including sung responses to the ten commandments, read by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury. This will be accompanied by Valiant-for-Truth and the premiere recording of Nocturne: By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame from 1904-06.

Also in March, a recording of organ transcriptions from David Briggs at Truro Cathedral, including the Fifth Symphony, Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and The Lark Ascending with Rupert Marshall Luck, violin. 

In April, the well-received folk song series is completed with Volume 4, based around Folk Songs collected by Maud Karpeles in Newfoundland.

June sees Albion’s biggest production to date: Pan’s Anniversary, last heard in Stratford -upon-Avon on Easter Monday 1905 – performed by Clare College Choir, Britten Sinfonia and soloists Mary and Sophie Bevan with Jess Dandy. This album has three further choral and orchestral premieres and a vocal production of the Tallis Fantasia.

Later in the year, Vaughan Williams on Brass features the Tredegar Town Band with Martyn Brabbins and Ian Portman, with the Tuba ConcertoVariations for Brass Band and other works including premieres.

Ian Venables RVW150 Commission
Amongst other highlights will be a public performance of a new work commissioned by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society especially for the anniversary from composer Ian Venables.

Further information
The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society provides comprehensive information about the composer’s life and works, details of partner organisations and publishers, ideas for programmatic themes and less well-known works, and contact details for Trustees and Officers who can provide specialist help.