“Rhosymedre” – Ralph Vaughan Williams | Piping Up: Selects (Brian Mathias)

Brian Mathias performs Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Rhosymedre” on the Aeolian-Skinner Organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was one of the most prolific and influential composers of English sacred music in the 20th century. Early in his career, in the 1890s, he served as an organist and choirmaster at St. Barnabas Church in South Lambeth. He didn’t like the job, but being a church organist was the only salaried job he ever had, and Vaughan Williams was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at age 25.

Though he was later much more renowned as a symphonist, choral composer, and folklorist, Vaughan Williams periodically returned to his organ roots, and the influence of his organ training can often be found even in his orchestral works. In 1920, Vaughan Williams published his “Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes” for solo organ. This set included the hymn tune “Rhosymedre,” written and published in 1836 by the Welsh Anglican priest John David Edwards, and named after the village where Edwards was vicar. In Wales, this tune is closely associated with the jubilant hymn “Arise, O God, and Shine.” Elsewhere, it tends to accompany more meditative hymn texts. In 1938, Vaughan Williams’s organ setting of “Rhosymedre” was arranged for orchestra by Arnold Foster.

“Rhosymedre” has a particularly special significance for the British royal family. Vaughan Williams’s setting was played at the funeral of Diana, the Princess of Wales, in 1997, and was performed again at the weddings of her two sons, William in 2011 and Harry in 2018. It also formed a part of the coronation ceremonies of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in 2023.

Piping Up! is an online series of concerts and performances by the organists serving on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, sponsored and presented by The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
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