While I was researching the book I contacted the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society for some information about the origins of FOREST GREEN. The Chairman of the Society, Simon Coombs, not only kindly provided me with some interesting leads for my research, but also offered to review the book in the Society's Journal, and invited me to address the AGM as their guest speaker, on 2nd October this year.
The meeting was held at the Surrey Performing Arts Library, in the grounds of Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking. The Library has a room dedicated to Vaughan Williams, and it was here that the members of the RVW Society gathered for their AGM. After the main business of the meeting I gave a talk on O Little Town: hymn-tunes and the places that inspired them, with musical illustrations provided by members of the English Arts Chorale conducted by their founder and Artistic Director, Leslie Olive. The talk was well-received and I even managed to sell a few copies of the book!
|Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking|
|Statue of Vaughan Williams by William Fawkes|
The traditional melody in question is 'Queen Eleanor's Confession'. The words of this song appear in English and Scottish Popular Ballads, a scholarly collection first published in the 1880s and 1890s by Francis James Childs. A recording of the ballad by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span can be heard on YouTube here.
I haven't found a recording of the hymn tune so here is an artificial one played on organ, with no singers. The picture is of a Dorking chicken, an ancient breed introduced by the Romans; the town of Dorking was an important centre of poultry production during the nineteenth century.