Ralph Vaughan Williams' Hodie: An analysis and performance guide for the choral conductor



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Texas Tech University


Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed works in many genres, among them his choral/orchestra Christmas cantata, Hodie in 1953-4. Sensing a need for a new major English Christmas work, he and his wife, Ursula, compiled a libretto from nativity poetry throughout many centuries, linking them together with scripture, recounting the Christmas story. Composed while Vaughan Williams was in his eighties, the work is perceived as if created fi-om someone forty years younger. In part, this was due to reverting of Vaughan Williams' personal compositional styles from previous years. That recycling of styles and a lack of imity of style in the work net only brought about strong criticism of Hodie, but also provided a springboard for discussion as to the validity of Vaughan Williams' importance as a British composer.

This dissertation is the first in-depth, comprehensive study of Hodie. Included is a detailed account of the history of the work and the criticisms, both negative and positive. A discussion of the libretto is presented, with a brief history of Milton, Ceverdale, Hardy, Herbert, Drummond, Ursula Vaughan Williams, and an unknown poet, including the poems in their totality as well as, if applicable, the portion used in Hodie, giving insight to all performers. An examination of the musical characteristics provides information en his medal writing, pitch centers, and analysis of form of the major choral movements, while providing a similar overview to the remaining choral movements, with particular attention to specific unity throughout the work. Considerations of vocal and orchestral forces, particularly in relation to size, as well as a discussion regarding options for a boys' choir is highlighted. Tempos of Hodie are considered in relation to printed markings and those of past performances by well-known conductors. Although the work has been criticized for its inconsistencies, Hodie has weathered the test of time and inspired performers and listeners alike. While it may not be performed as frequentiy as other of Vaughan Williams' choral works, Hodie is nevertheless considered a formidable work in the choral genre and is worthy of performance.



Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958. Hodie, Ralph Vaughan Williams -- 1872-1958, Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 -- Criticism and interpretation, Composers -- England -- Biography