An unusual dawn chorus

Readers of my last post will, I hope, have been waiting for this one with baited breath – who is it that I was so looking forward to covering?

Well let me put you out of your misery, my dear friends and tell you that it is the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Now telll me honestly, have you ever heard anything you did not like by this composer?  I defy you to say yes to this question!  And at the other end of the scale (excuse the pun), let’s have a look at some of the wonderful works he has given us, some well known, others perhaps less so.

In order to catch my morning train to work, I can sometimes undertake a rather nice but brisk 40 minute walk.  However, for this to happen, a number of conditions have to be perfect and coincide:

  • I have to feel well enough to do it
  • it has to be reasonable weather so that I do not arrive at work looking like a drowned rat (one has standards 🙂 )
  • I have to have been able to get up early enough to leave the house no later than 06:10am

Today was one time when everything fell gloriously into place.  It was the most beautiful of spring mornings – perhaps the first and best that we have had.  As I stepped out of our front door, my heart lifted, my nose was filled with early-morning scents and my ears were greeted with so many birds singing their hearts out.

I could not but help think of one of Vaughan Williams’ most popular pieces – The Lark Ascending.  Indeed, this is one of the most popular pieces of classical music of all time.  And it is easy to see/hear why.  Its lyrical rendition of the lark by the violin, in total harmony with the orchestra as ‘nature’ is quintessentially English, yet also transcendent of any geographical or time boundaries.

Despite needing to keep up my pace to catch my train, I stopped to take two pictures to give you a sense of my lovely walk.  The first is a view of Edinburgh castle:

View of Edinburgh castle from Edinburgh meadows
View of Edinburgh castle from Edinburgh meadows

If you are interested, the church on the left is Barclay Viewforth Church.  A magnificent building from the outside, and apparently an amazing one on the inside too – must go and explore sometime.

The next picture is this beautiful ‘blossom walkway’ which was particularly wonderful in the early sunshine.  This took me up into the heart of the city.

Pink Blossom Walk, Edinburgh Meadows
Pink Blossom Walk, Edinburgh Meadows

Along the way, I heard other ‘larks ascending’.

I passed two women sat on a bench having a friendly row with each other.  Their heavy Scottish accents were loud against the quiet of the early morning and the empty cans around them suggested they had been there for a while, perhaps even all night?

And as I neared the train station, a car alarm was going off persistently.  I felt sorry for anyone within earshot of that particular man-made lark – who knows how long it had been going on.

So I mentioned other VW music.  As I type, I am listening to another favourite – Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.  The complete opposite to The Lark – this is purposeful, structured and powerful.  And yet we can still also hear that sense of lyricism, beauty, Englishness and joy that is characteristic of VW’s music for me.

For future listening, I would recommend his symphony number 6 in E Minor – powerful stuff but great drama – and symphony number 1 ‘a sea symphony’, which is essentially a choral work and a rousingly good one at that.  There are many more works where that came from of course, but it’s late and this little lark needs to get to bed so that she can be up in time for that morning walk tomorrow. 🙂

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