Ralph Vaughan Williams, Lewisham and LCS

Our summer concert features the work of Bob Chilcott and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and as is customary in Lewisham Choral Society, we look for links between our choir members, our borough of Lewisham, and the music we are performing.

In 1911, the Festival of Empire was held in Crystal Palace to celebrate the coronation of George V. One of the main events was The Pageant of London – performed in an open-air 10,000 seater auditorium in the grounds of the park. The music and dancing in each scene within the pageant drew on a different London borough or community for its organisation, and for most of its amateur cast. It was for the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham to mount the scene entitled ‘The London of Merrie England – May Day Revels in the Days of Henry VIII’, which historically took place in the Blackheath area.

And the connection to our concert? The music was specially written and arranged by Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams. For more information, do read pages 12 to 17 from the Journal of the RVW Society.
A later Vaughan Williams composition was Serenade to Music, written for performance in 1938 by sixteen of the country’s leading classical singers. Among these was the lyric tenor Heddle Nash, born in Deptford in 1894. After the Great War he took up a scholarship he had won to study at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music. He also studied in Milan and, having sung opera around northern Italy, he returned to his home at 25 Tyrwhitt Road in Brockley to sing at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne.

After singing in the first performance and recording of Serenade to Music, in 1945 Nash sang the title role in the first recording of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. He died in 1961. Below is a photo of the sixteen soloists with their composer, Heddle Nash is on the back row, 4th from the left.

Our performance of Serenade to Music is on Friday the 12th of July, and tickets can be purchased now.

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