Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams (Kingsfold)

Last week the music of Thomas Tallis, the father of English church music, was featured. This week it's the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams who played a primary role in establishing English sacred music in the 20th century. Himself an agnostic, he took on the task of revising the English Hymnal and the result was both solid and magical. He had long collected English folk tunes and incorporated many of those tunes in hymns he composed for the hymnal. Kingsfold is a wonderful example of the fusion of English folk music with English poetry. As such, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" has been included in Celtic celebrations as well as in Christian hymnals across many denominations.

Vaughn Williams may have been an agnostic, but that was surely reflective of the times that he was born into and the world in which we live today. He had a compassionate, humanitarian spirit and an ear for beauty and harmony. Kingsfold, set to the text by Horatius Bonar, 19th century Scottish poet and churchman, beautifully and transcendently declares our discovery of "this dark world's light."

(For further reading: Why Ralph Vaughan Williams should he as revered as William Shakespeare, by Simon Heffer, The Telegraph.


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