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Ralph Vaughan Williams: preserving the publishing legacy

In the Vaughan Williams’s 150th anniversary year, his primary publisher Oxford University Press are donating around 60 items to the British Library, to be preserved and made available to musicians and researchers. These items include artefacts from all stages in the publishing process, from conductor’s marked scores, copyist’s copies and handwritten notes by the composer. In this blog, Simon Wright highlights some interesting features amongst the titles being donated.

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Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams and the art of the amateur

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) was one of the twentieth century’s great champions of and advocates for amateur music-making. Explore his views on the amateur vs professional relationship, and discover what he might have thought of America’s Got Talent, and other reality talent shows.

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The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune

Recalling hymn tunes by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Hymn tunes of Ralph Vaughan Williams find consensus: undisputed quality. The foremost English composer of his generation is credited with composing, adapting, or arranging more than 80 tunes set to important hymns of our faith.

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The Oxford Book of Carols

Christmas with Ralph Vaughan Williams and The Oxford Book of Carols

The inter-war Oxford Book of Carols (published in 1928) was the brainchild of Reverend Percy Dearmer—a socialist, high church Anglican liturgist who believed that music should be at the core of Christian worship. Today the OBC is a world-renowned publication that shines as as a beacon of experimentation within tradition: a visionary musico-poetic collection of the most profoundly partisan nature.

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Job: A Masque for Dancing by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Michael Kennedy has described Job as one of Vaughan Williams’s mightiest achievements. It is a work which, in a full production, combines painting (the inspiration for the work came from a scenario drawn up by Geoffrey Keynes based on William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job), literature (the King James Bible), music, and dance.

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Dona nobis pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams

By Hugh Cobbe
The cantata Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams was written at a time when the country was slowly awakening to the possibility of a second European conflict. When invited to provide a work for the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society in October 1936, Vaughan Williams remembered that he had in his drawer an unpublished setting of Walt Whitman’s ‘Dirge for Two Veterans’.

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Coronation Music

Sunday 2 June marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in London. It also therefore follows that it is the anniversary of the works which were first performed at the coronation, including William Walton’s Orb and Sceptre March and Coronation Te Deum, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s O taste and see and Old Hundredth Psalm Tune (All people that on earth do dwell).

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Carols for Choirs

Carols for Choirs: the journey to press

A history of the first ‘Carols for Choirs’ book, first published in 1961. Looking at materials from the OUP archive, we trace the journey from the initial idea through to its eventual release and unexpected success.

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He That Dwelleth in the Secret Place of the Most High

Exploring the choral music of Rebecca Clarke

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) is most commonly known as a violist and composer, in particular for her famous Viola Sonata (1919), which has remained one of the most significant in the instrument’s repertoire since its composition. Her Shorter Pieces for viola and piano, as well as a number of solo songs, have gained increasing recognition since the turn of the millennium, as more of her music has begun to be published and researched.

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My song is love unknown, by Becky McGlade

A Q&A with composer Becky McGlade

I was fortunate enough to rehearse daily with the Truro cathedral choristers from the age of 8 to 13 (in the days before girl choristers). This fostered in me a love for choral music and for singing, which has continued throughout my life.

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Bob Chilcott shares his memories of Sir David Willcocks

I joined King’s College Choir as a boy treble in 1964. This was a time of real energy in the media, recording and concert world, and this possibly brought a different kind of perspective to David’s work with the choir. There were a number of firsts for the choir around this time.

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Arranging The Lark Ascending for small string ensembles

I discovered the violin and piano version of The Lark Ascending in my youth, and I still remember how much I loved playing the violin part, unaccompanied. I was impressed by the programmatic transformation of the underlying poem as well as the liberating setting of the pentatonic scale and transcendent cadenza. Even then, I was already thinking of adapting this wonderful work for a different instrumentation.

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A Q&A with composer David Bednall — part 2

We like to get an insight into the musical lives of Oxford composers by asking them questions about their artistic likes and dislikes, influences, and challenges.. In part 1 we spoke to composer David Bednall in August 2017 about what motivates him, and how he approaches a new commission. Here he tells us why he wanted to be a composer, the challenges he faces, and his musical guilty pleasures.

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Carols for Choirs: a history

As Christmas draws to a close, so too does the busiest time of year for OUP’s Hire Library. Unsurprisingly, the majority of our most-hired materials this year have come from one of the most authoritative carol collections available to choirs today: the Carols for Choirs series and 100 Carols for Choirs. Whilst many singers are likely to have sung from this book, it is unlikely that many know the story of its conception.

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