from Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 to Pakenham, Simona Vere, 1916-2010

Letter No. VWL3386

Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Simona Pakenham

Letter No.: VWL3386

From R. Vaughan Williams,
10, Hanover Terrace,
Regents Park,
London, N.W.1.

February 3rd 1958

Dearest Simona

I ought to have explained that I have made a rule never to give the titles or words of my folk tunes which I have made into hymn tunes;1 for instance, I’ve often been asked what the tunes in my Te Deum are, and I’ve never told anybody yet. The reason being that a lot of narrow minded people refuse to use the tune if they think it has Sexular (i.e. secular!!) associations. I think that Hymns A&M still refuse to admit the magnificent tune Helmsley for Lo he comes, because it is derived from a comic song called Where’s the mortal can resist me?  I should love to help you, but I’m afraid I cannot allow Wilfrid Brown2 to sing the tune with the original words.3 So sorry. I hope this won’t prevent you employing him as you suggest.


1. Pakenham was working on a series entitled ‘Sacred & Secular’ for the Religious Broadcasting Department of the BBC, about hymn tunes with origins other than religious.
2. Wilfrid Brown, tenor and dedicatee (with Janet Craxton) of Ten Blake Songs.
3. Pakenham had asked if Brown could sing ‘Our Captain calls all hands on deck’ as an introduction to ‘He who would valiant be’.  As VWL3383 shows VW agreed to help by starting off the series with a talk about his work for The English Hymnal. The series was illustrated by The St Martin Singers conducted by W.D. Kennedy Bell; Brown was the principal tenor.