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Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth

Statue of Ralph Vaughan Williams

Broadcast in Sunday Feature 21 June 09 and in iPlayer for 7 days

Listen to extended interviews with contributors.

In an elegiac portrait of Ralph Vaughan Williams the man and composer, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Stephen Johnson travels across the country Vaughan Williams so loved, to see some of the places he lived and worked in, to try and get a little closer to an extraordinary and underrated mind.

Stephen sets out to find out the truth about the man – a man who spent much of his life in London - he called himself a Londoner, yet he was born in the country in the depths of Gloucestershire in Down Ampney in a country vicarage. He was brought up by part of his family – the Wedgwoods in Leith Hill on the North Downs and spent the rest of his life searching for something. Perhaps it was something to do with the primal truth of England in the folk music he collected, or maybe he was searching for something to do with religion. He’s a man who called himself an atheist, and then a Christian Agnostic. What was it that he saw in all these things – what was he looking for?

Talking to those who knew him, and those who have studied him and love his music, Stephen tries to discover how Vaughan Williams manages to combine something that is so rooted in the countryside, with something that is so reflective of the turmoil of the times he was living in. What affect did war have on the composer and shape the way he saw the country and wrote his music?

Below are extended interviews with some of the people who contributed to the programme.

    Stephen Johnson talks to journalist and Vaughan Williams's biographer, Simon Heffer about Vaughan Williams and religion, social conscience, Englishness and politics. Dur: 9'15

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Simon Heffer
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    Stephen Johnson talks to the philosopher Anthony Grayling at Leith Hill Place where Vaughan Williams lived as he grew up. Dur: 7'41

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Anthony Grayling
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    Stephen Johnson talks to Simona Packenham who wrote about the music of Vaughan Williams, and who late in his life became a friend to both him and his wife Ursula. Dur: 6'41

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Simona Packenham
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    Stephen Johnson talks to Vaughan Williams' biographer, Michael Kennedy. Dur: 7'16

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Michael Kennedy
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    Stephen Johnson talks to composer, trumpet player, former member of the Halle Orchestra and one time student of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arthur Butterworth. Dur: 6'01

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Arthur Butterworth
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    Stephen Johnson talks to the musical assistant of Vaughan Williams - Roy Douglas. Dur: 4'19

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Roy Douglas
    • Listen

    Stephen Johnson talks to Kiffer Finzi, the son of the composer Gerald Finzi, who when he was a child knew knew Vaughan Williams. Dur: 3'16

    • Stephen Johnson talks to Kiffer Finzi
    • Listen

    Listen to the Programme - Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth

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