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Ralph Vaughan Williams Charles Darwins Great Nephew
Shrewsbury has celebrated its most famous son, Charles Darwin, with a festival for the last 20 years. This year's festival saw one event in Darwin's house for the first time. Glyn Jones, the current owner of the house, deserves thanks for this generous gesture. On February 5th, just one week before the anniversary of Darwin's birth, Ted Maidment gave a talk on the music and life of Ralph Vaughan Williams' a great-nephew of Darwin. He set the scene for RVW's family history, not aristocratic but a line of profound thinkers. After all, the Lunar Society, of which Darwin was a member, must have been one of English history's most formidable intellectual gatherings. Later the family, especially Aunt Hettie, ridicules Ralph's ambition to be a musician; how glad we are that she was wrong!
The talk emphasised that RVW was a great composer and a great man. This complex personality saw no need to explain his music from a programmatic perspective but always had the whole community in mind when composing. This composing life extended from the belatedly Victorian era to the reign of the second Elizabeth and never descended into nostalgia. He was not a Christian, yet he had profound respect for many manifestations of Christianity, whether the magnificent architecture of the great cathedrals or the music of the Tudor composers.
Mr Maidment was especially moving when he described RVW's enlisting as an ambulance orderly in 1914-when he was in his forties! He was also involved at the end of World War 2 with work which led to the establishment of the Arts Council.
The event was nicely rounded off with fine performances of two beautiful compositions by Vaughan Williams; viola player Jane Park and pianist John Moore played a Romance for viola and piano which was discovered after the composer's deathin1958, although it is believed to have been written in in in in around 1914. The resonant lower register of the viola was proof of the work's darker side. Jane's husband, Alex Postlethwaite, then joined John Moore for a satisfactory performance of; "The Lark Ascending", possibly RVW's best-known work. A genuinely sublime ending to an event that sent many of us off to listen again to the enormous output of one of the greatest 20th-century composers.
He included a social time with tea and cake, an invitation to visit the room where Charles Darwin was born on February 12th 1809 and to see some craft businesses functioning in the restored parts of the house.
The Photo Above SIMON WEDGWOOD WITH THE OWNER OF DARWIN HOUSE GLYN JONES
The photo to the right
JOHN MOORE PIANO, JANE PARK VIOLA, JENNY WYNN, HIS MAJESTY’S VICE LORD-LIEUTENANT OF SHROPSHIRE, TED MAIDMENT SPEAKER, ALEX POSTLETHWAITE VIOLIN. PHOTOGRAPHER ANNABEL MOELLER
This event was held at the beginning of the Darwin Festival, which celebrated 20 years in Shrewsbury this year, 2023. This event raised £650 for The Brain Tumor Trust Team Cleo charity chosen by the musicians
Pictured below is Mark Scutt handing the cheque to Caroline Thewle who represented the Brain Tumor Trust.