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Vaughan Williams, Published for the First Time

Mar 31st, 2009

Published for the first time, Scenes Adapted from Bunyan?s Pilgrim?s Progress (PME14) contains the complete script and extant musical numbers from the 1907 and 1908 productions in London. This publication is edited and considered for modern readers and performers. The script is restored and clarified, and includes detailed music cues. The score draws on several primary sources, and existing gaps are filled with additional music selections and fabrications in the Appendix. In the preface, Nathaniel Lew explains the sources and editorial decisions leading to this publication, all of which makes for both a scholarly and practical work.

As Lew tells the story of this work and music, it has been over 100 years since Joanna Hadley, who managed the local community theatrical entertainments in Reigate, initially asked the folk song collector and editor Lucy Broadwood, who resided nearby, to furnish folk songs for a production of John Bunyan?s allegorical Christian novel The Pilgrim?s Progress, scripted by Evelyn Ouless. ?Broadwood recommended instead her neighbour Vaughan Williams.?

Lew writes: ?John Bunyan?s allegorical Christian novel The Pilgrim?s Progress was a consistent and primary source of inspiration for Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composer knew the book?s contents intimately, and returned to it repeatedly for a series of works that span much of his career. These include the 1922 one-act chamber opera (or ?pastoral episode?) entitled The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, the 1940 anthem ?Valiant-for-Truth,? the incidental music to Edward Sackville-West?s 1943 radio production of the book, and the full-length opera (or ?morality?) completed in 1951, which in turn provided material for the Fifth Symphony of 1943. The incidental music composed for a community theatrical production of part one of Bunyan?s book in Reigate, Surrey, preceded all these works and, despite its modest nature, served as a dramatic model and reservoir of musical ideas for them. It was also the source of the 1910 Tallis Fantasia.?

Photo credit: Ralph Vaughan Williams, ca. 1910, courtesy and copyright of The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust

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