Paul Noble granted first publication rights to Ralph Vaughan Williams composition

Date: May 12th, 2017

The piece, originally scored for Military Band and offered by, both in that version and in an arrangement for Concert Band is entitled “England’s Pleasant Land”, composed to accompany a pageant by the same name written by the novelist E. M. Forster. The pageant focused on the ‘English countryside, its growth and destruction’. Vaughan Williams supplied the music with the assistance of several friends and former Royal College of Music pupils. However, his own contribution included two original numbers, Exit of the Ghosts of the Past and Funeral March for the Old Order. They accompanied events in Forster’s text which were becoming all-too-frequent in the 1920s and 30s: the death of an ‘old Squire’, followed by the enforced sale and subsequent break-up of his estate to pay death duties. This inevitably led to the loss of a deep-rooted human link with the past, often resulting in the demolition of the ancestral home to make way for new housing, motor cars, motor bikes, motor buses, small bungalows, paper and empty tins.

Although some material from the score was to be re-used in his Symphony No. 5 (1943), Vaughan Williams considered that his music for England’s Pleasant Land had served its purpose, and consequently allowed the score to remain unpublished. Noble agrees that “it deserves better than to remain unseen and unheard.”

The detailed history of the pageant, which is included in Dr. Noble’s presentation of the music, is the work of Dr. Peter Horton, Deputy Librarian (Reference and Research) at The Royal College of Music, London, who also edited and typeset the original Military Band version. On his website, Noble presents both options: the original Military Band version as composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and his own scoring for the modern Concert/Wind Band, each containing the two movements.

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