Ralph Vaughan Williams

On this date in 1872, Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England. He attended the Royal College of Music from 1890 to 1892 and earned a degree in music from Trinity College at Cambridge University in 1894 and a degree in history in 1895. He later studied music with accomplished composers Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel. Vaughan Williams composed orchestras, hymns, chamber music, operas and symphonies. His work included such memorable pieces as “Fantasia on Greensleeves” (1934), “The Lark Ascending” (1914) and “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” (1910). Vaughan Williams wrote nine symphonies, including “A Sea Symphony” (1910), “Pastoral Symphony” (1921) and “Symphony No. 4” (1935). He was a professor at the Royal College of Music from 1919 to 1938. Vaughan Williams married Adeline Fisher in 1897, and after her death he married Ursula Wood in 1953.

In Ursula Vaughan Williams’ 1988 biography of her late husband, she wrote: “He was an atheist during his later years at Charterhouse and at Cambridge, though he later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism: he was never a professing Christian.” Ralph Vaughan Williams was Charles Darwin’s great nephew. D. 1958

“There is no reason why an atheist could not write a good Mass.”

—Ralph Vaughan Williams, quoted in R.V.W.: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1988) by Ursula Vaughan Williams.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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