from Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 to Lilburn, Douglas, 1915-2001

Letter No. VWL1916

Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Douglas Lilburn

Letter No.: VWL1916

The White Gates

May 22 [1944]

Dear Lilburn

I was very glad to get your long and interesting letter and to have news of you and expecially to be able to thank you for the fine present which you and Page sent me a long time ago.
Your account of music in N.Z. is rather deplorable.  I remember that about ’38 when refugees began to leave Germany that the whole of the Berlin Philharmonic applied for leave to come in a body to N.Z. – my advice was unofficially asked & I was against it – I thought that if they went as a body they would remain a “foreign body” & that a process of “infiltration” was better – a few to fill up gaps & so gradually form a “national” orchestra – But I fear I was wrong!  However I hope now that they realize that having a real live composer among them they must have real live material for him to work on.
I heard your “Aotearoa”1  a little while ago – I did not quite get hold of it at first hearing but I see it is down on the BBC programme again this week & I hope I shall be able to hear it.
Inglis2 is having a little success at last – he had a work done at the Proms last year and I think is down for another this year.  He has had a hard and strenuous time in the Navy and deserves all the luck he can get.
I had forgotten that you were a friend of Tom Harrison3 – I may be seeing him soon and will remind him of your existence.
Remember me to Page – they seem to have behaved disgracefully to him4
I am much interested to hear of the violin sonata – I hope we shall hear it over here one day
Yrs ever

R. Vaughan Williams

P.S  R. O. Morris sends his kind remembrances.

1. An overture written by Lilburn in 1940. The title means ‘Land of the long white cloud’ – the Maori name for New Zealand.
2. Inglis Gundry
3. Actor and producer, inter alia, of The Abinger Pageant in 1934, England’s Pleasant Land in 1938, Sir John in Love at Birmingham in 1949, at Stratford in 1951. He lived near Dorking.
4. Frederick Page, having served as a temporary lecturer in Canterbury University College, had been passed over for a permanent appointment. See Page, A Musician’s Journal (Dunedin, 1986), p.79-80.