March 2008: Vaughan Williams the Pioneering Pilgrim

The Philharmonia Orchestra is mounting the UK’s most significant commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Under artistic advisor Michael Kennedy and conductor Richard Hickox the series includes choral works and a complete symphony cycle at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, two semi-staged performances of The Pilgrim's Progress at Sadler's Wells (directed by David Edwards) and concerts in Bedford, Leicester, Chichester, Truro and Tewkesbury.

Soloists include Susan Gritton and Gerald Finley (A Sea Symphony), Anthony Marwood (The Lark Ascending), Lisa Milne (Symphony No. 3, Pastoral and Dona nobis pacem) and Alan Opie (Dona nobis pacem). Roderick Williams (The Pilgrim) heads a brilliant cast of singers in The Pilgrim's Progress including Matthew Brook, Neal Davies, Sarah Fox, James Gilchrist, Robert Hayward, Andrew Kennedy, Matthew Rose, Pamela Helen Stephen and Sarah Tynan.

Other resources and events in the Series include Study Daysled by specialists in London, Bedford and Leicester exploring Vaughan Williams' life and times, a touring exhibition,specially commissioned articles and interviews with artists, players and Vaughan Williams specialists and a major web resource at, from mid-April.

Richard Hickox, Conductor of the Series, commented:
"The music of Ralph Vaughan Williams has spoken strongly to me for the last fifty years when, as a child, I first played his stirring hymns and wonderful arrangements of traditional carols. His nine symphonies represent an extraordinary range of human experience. Each and every symphony, in Michael Kennedy's words, 'is a necessary and inevitable extension of the composer's personality – a momentous personal statement."

Michael Kennedy, Artistic Advisor of the Series:
"It begins to look as if the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams may turn out to be the biggest and most significant turning-point in a wider appreciation of his stature as a composer. It is only now that he is being recognised as a composer not just for England but for the civilised world and it can at last be seen that in liberating others, he liberated himself."

David Whelton, Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director, said:
"It is with great pleasure that we embark on this Series to commemorate Vaughan Williams, one of England's greatest composers, 50 years after his death. We are extremely grateful to Mr Vincent Meyer, the Orchestra's President, who has enabled this to take place through the generous support of The Meyer Foundation."

A full schedule of dates, repertoire and booking information for the Series is attached. More detailed information is available at