The Canterbury Pilgrims was a product of Dyson’s devotion to the English choral tradition and particularly that of the choral society. He thought that the repertoire was becoming filled by older works that were beyond the abilities of most choirs and societies. He wanted to create a work that rejected the pastoral, folk song inspired styles of Vaughan Williams and Elgar, did away with the more daring modernisms of Walton and Bliss but remained quintessentially English. Most importantly to Dyson, it was to be infused with the same sense of community that can be found in choral societies up and down the land.
Fittingly, The Canterbury Pilgrims takes place in that most English of community institutions: the pub. The text is derived from the general prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales where the poet’s motley crew is assembled at the Tabard Inn before embarking on their voyage to the Cathedral city.