Ursula Vaughan Williams (1911-2007)

Article excerpt

With the death of Ursula Vaughan Williams on 23 October 2007 the British musical world lost a remarkable and life-enhancing figure. Much more than simply the widow of a great composer concerned with carrying the torch for his music (though she certainly did that, continuing to attend performances and events until a few days before her death) she was a respected poet and librettist for many composers, a generous supporter of young musicians and their older colleagues, a tireless advocate for the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Song and Dance Society, a member of numerous committees and a supremely hospitable hostess.

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Born Ursula Lock, the daughter of an Army officer then based in Malta, she married first, in 1923, Michael Wood, also in the Army. She met Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1938 after she had sent him a ballet scenario, which he had rejected, and they quickly formed a close attachment. She was welcomed into the Vaughan Williams's household in Dorking, Surrey, by his frail wife Adeline. Ursula's husband died in 1942 and Adeline in 1951. Finally, in 1953, she and Ralph married and for the last five years of his life moved back to central London where they led a highly sociable musical life. After his death she wrote a perceptive and highly readable account of her husband's life and in a characteristically generous act she donated most of his manuscript material to the British Library. …

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