An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Vaughan Williams, Ralph

(Oct. 12, 1872-Aug. 26, 1958). English composer, hymn writer, and editor. He was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire. Williams was educated at Charterhouse, The Royal College of Music, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied music with several of the most prominent musicians and composers of the day in England and Europe. His musical roots were the music of the Tudor period, Purcell, and most especially, English folk song. Williams was a prolific composer. His catalogue includes nine symphonies, as well as concertos, opera, ballet, music for films, songs, part songs, chamber music, and cantatas. Although never a professing Christian, he wrote several anthems, canticle settings and a Mass for two choirs. Williams left his greatest mark on church music as the editor of The English Hymnal (1906, revised 1933), Songs of Praise (1925, enlarged 1931), and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). He was a proponent of unison singing by the congregation, and many of his own tunes and arrangements are for this medium. To hymnal repertoires he introduced British and Irish folk tunes and carols, Welsh hymn tunes, arrangements of historic German, French and Swiss tunes, tunes by Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis, and English and Scottish Psalter tunes in their original forms. Most English language hymnals published since 1930 have been strongly influenced by his work as a hymnal editor, composer, and arranger. The Hymnal 1982 contains five of his original tunes, including Salve festa dies, used with “Hail thee, festival day!” (Hymns 175, 216, 225), The Call, used with “Come, my Way” (Hymn 487), and Down Ampney, used with “Come down, O Love divine” (Hymn 516), and seventeen of his arrangements. He died in London.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.