RVW’s ‘Staffordshire’ Flourish rediscovered.
My name is Graham Muncy and I am the Information Officer for the RVW Society, I receive many requests for information about our composer and his works from many parts of the world, especially from the USA, Canada and Germany, so I was recently rather surprised to receive one from my own town of Malvern, Worcestershire, a place usually famed for its associations with another quite famous British composer, Edward Elgar.
The request was for information on a short piece, Flourish for 3 Natural Trumpets, and attached to the message was the 15 bar, neatly-written 3-part score, obviously a copy. The sender was a trumpet teacher at a well-known school in Malvern who was keen to perform the piece.
Of course, my first reaction was to reach for the Michael Kennedy Catalogue of the works… and I soon discovered the short entry on page 209 and listed under the year 1951:
Flourish for Three [natural Bd] Trumpets. Specially written for Staffordshire schools in the year of the Festival of Britain.
First performance. Stafford, Borough Hall, 19 March 1951, conducted by Maude Smith.
Whereabouts of MS. Music Department, William Salt Library, Stafford.
British Library has photocopy (63849)
My curiosity now aroused, together with the need to identify the copy sent to me as the one in Kennedy’s catalogue and not another, as RVW probably composed other flourishes and fanfares, particularly during his stint composing for the Benson Company at Stratford just before the Great War, I phoned the William Salt Library.
I was not really surprised at being informed that they had no Music Department but became a little worried that they held no music…or manuscripts. They suggested the Staffordshire Record Office, so I tried an email and a few days later, I had a positive reply saying that they had found some files relating to the Staffordshire Schools Music Service with some music scores including a manuscript version of the Flourish. The reply went on… ‘It does not obviously bear his name but there is a scribble at the bottom that might be a signature if you knew what his looked like, and also on the envelope. There are also items about Vaughan Williams in the scrapbook and also a set of programmes.’ (File CEU/4/2/2.)
Having had a fair working knowledge of the manifestations of RVW’s signature at various stages of his life, the promise of a scribble looked hopeful, so I arranged a visit to the Record Office in Stafford as soon as I was free.
After a few registration formalities, I was finally presented with File CEU/4/2/2. Naturally, I quickly found the envelope containing the music manuscripts and together with the score of an orchestral suite by Frank Merrick and an interesting choral song by Maude Smith, I finally got my (very clean) hands on the Flourish which to my pleasure was in RVW’s spidery hand with the signature at the bottom, unmistakably his. The Flourish, written on three staves throughout, matched the 3-trumpet score that the original enquirer sent to me, so I was able to confirm that this was the manuscript that I was seeking. And the bonus was the original envelope addressed by RVW & with a rather smudged ‘Dorking’ postmark – I was unable to make out the date.
Of course, the other bonus was the material that this file contained. There were a number of programmes from the late 1940s and early 1950s recording the rather impressive musical activities organised by the Staffordshire Schools Music Service and their County Music Advisor, Maude Smith. The Service organised choral and orchestral concerts involving numerous schools across the county in centres including Stafford and Stoke with a special concert in Wolverhampton Civic Hall – ‘A Vaughan Williams Festival’ in 1952 to celebrate his eightieth birthday and in which his ‘Staffordshire’ Flourish was performed, together with choral songs and folksong arrangements, The Lark Ascending, Benedicite, and Festival Te Deum.
From what I have discovered from this file and the material preserved, The Staffordshire County Music Service were very proud of this connection with RVW and worked very hard to promote his music and to involve so many schools, teachers and the public in the enterprise. Belated praise must be given to the County Music Advisor, Maude Smith for asking RVW to compose the Flourish and for promoting the composer and his works to the young people and the wider public of Staffordshire. For his part, RVW probably felt a strong affinity to the county through his connections with the Wedgwoods and Darwins as well as perhaps not being able to turn down a request from Miss. Smith.
(I wish to thank the staff at the Staffordshire Record Office for their help. I have now amended my copy of Michael Kennedy’s Catalogue…)
Collections Officer, Archives & Heritage
Staffordshire Record Office
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