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Category Archives: Vaughan Williams-Ralph

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer and folk-song collector.  His powerful and expressive orchestral music is notable for its very “English” sound.  His early adventures collecting folk songs in the English countryside profoundly influenced his later compositions.  Along with Gustav Holst, his works for wind band form a foundation for the serious literature in that medium.

Vaughan Williams wrote Flourish for Wind Band in 1939 as the opening to the pageant Music and the People in the Royal Albert Hall in London.  It was subsequently lost, only to be rediscovered and finally published in 1971.  Arranger Roy Douglas created versions of the piece for brass band and for symphony orchestra, but it has become part of the basic literature of the wind band for which it was created.  It opens with a simple brass fanfare.  This gives way to a lyrical melody before the fanfare returns to end the piece.   At just under 2 minutes long, Flourish for Wind Band is a concise gem of Vaughan Williams’s output.  I like to pair it with his Toccata Marziale, with which it shares the key of B-flat and some motivic material, in a prelude and fugue sort of arrangement.

Flourish for Wind Band at the Wind Repertory Project, Answers.com, and (not for the faint of heart) a detailed music analysis of the piece in the form of a master’s thesis.

A chapter on British wind band music from an online History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes. Vaughan Williams features prominently.

Flourish played by the University of North Texas.  I prefer it a tiny bit slower, but they’re REALLY good!

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society – the source for anything you might ever possibly want to know about the composer.

Vaughan Williams on Wikipedia.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer and folk-song collector.  His powerful and expressive orchestral music is notable for its very “English” sound.  His early adventures collecting folk songs in the English countryside profoundly influenced his later compositions.  Along with Gustav Holst, his works for wind band form a foundation for the serious literature in that medium.

The English Folk Song Suite is one of those foundational works. It was written in 1923 and premiered at Kneller Hall, home of Britain’s finest military music academy.  It uses as its source material several English folks songs.  It is cast in 3 movements: a “March” subtitled “Seventeen Come Sunday”; an “Intermezzo” on “My Bonny Boy”; and another “March” subtitled “Folk Songs from Somerset”, which incorporates several different tunes.  A good summary of the movements and the folk songs involved in each is available at Wikipedia.  The original composition also included a fourth movement, Sea Songs, which Vaughan Williams later decided to publish separately.  While the English Folk Song Suite is a cornerstone of the wind band repertoire, it is not fully demonstrative of Vaughan Williams’s compositional powers.  Only the “Intermezzo” approaches the harmonic daring and lyricism that mark the rest of his work.  The remainder of the piece is a fairly straightforward, faithful setting of the folk songs.

Program notes on the Suite.

For curiosity’s sake, here’s a Facebook discussion board dedicated to the Suite.

A chapter on British wind band music from an online History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes. Vaughan Williams and the English Folk Song Suite feature prominently.

So now let’s listen to the Eastman Wind Orchestra (one of the best in the world) play these movements:

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society – the source for anything you might ever possibly want to know about the composer.

Vaughan Williams on Wikipedia.