Composers Datebook®

Vaughan Williams at Westminster

Composer's Datebook - September 19, 2023


On today’s date in 1958, just nine days after his death, a funeral service was held for the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes were laid to rest. Now, many famous people are buried at Westminster Abbey, but an actual funeral service there, especially for someone not of the royal family, is pretty rare. In fact, Vaughan Williams was the first commoner to be buried there for almost 300 years.

The previous such event had been for the 17th English composer and sometime organist of the Abbey, Henry Purcell–whose grave, like Vaughan Williams, is in the Abbey’s north choir aisle, should you wish to pay your respects.

Vaughan Williams had left instructions for which music was to be played: his anthem O taste and see and also his setting of the hymn, All people that on earth do dwell, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which had taken place at Westminster Abbey just five years earlier, in 1953.

The service was broadcast live by the BBC, and the announcer noted that if all the submitted requests to attend had have been honored, the Abbey would have been filled twice over.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) "O Taste and See" and "All People that on Earth do Dwell" (arr. of "Old 100th") The Cambridge Singers; John Rutter, cond. Collegium 107

Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr.) All People That on Earth Do Dwell" (Old 100th) Christ Church Cathedral Choir; English Orch; Stephen Darlington, cond. Nimbus 5166

On This Day


  • 1829 - Music publisher Gustav Schirmer, in Königsee, Thuringia; He came to America in 1840 with his parents, and in 1861 founded in New York City the music publishing house that bears his name, G. Schirmer, Inc.;

  • 1911 - Swedish composer Allan Pettersson, in Västra Ryd;


  • 1949 - Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas, age 45, in Athens;

  • 1972 - French composer and pianist Robert Casadesus, age 73, in Paris;


  • 1894 - Brahms: two Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120, at a private performance in the home of the sister of the Duke of Meiningen at Berchtesgaden, by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld (of the Grand Ducal Orchestra of Meiningen) with the composer at the piano; Brahms and Mühlfeld also gave private performances of both sonatas on November 10-13, 1894, in Frankfurt (for Clara Schumann and others); on November 14, 1894, at Castle Altenstein (for the Duke of Meiningen); and on Jan. 7, 1895, in Vienna (for members of the Tonkünstler Society); The first public performances of the two sonatas took place in Vienna on January 8 (Sonata No. 2) and 11 (Sonata No. 2), 1895, with the same performers, as part of the Rosé Quartet's chamber music series;

  • 1908 - Mahler: Symphony No. 7 ("Song of the Night"), in Prague, with the composer conducting;

  • 1927 - Schoenberg: String Quartet No. 3, in Vienna, by the Kolisch Quartet;

  • 1937 - Hanson: Symphony No. 3 (partial performance), on a CBS Radio Symphony concert conducted by the composer; The first complete performance occurred with the rival network's NBC Symphony, again with the composer conducting, on March 26, 1938;

  • 1970 - Morton Feldman: "The Viola in My Life" No. 1 for viola and orchestra, in London;

  • 1998 - André Previn: opera "A Streetcar Named Desire," with cast including Rene Fleming, by the San Francisco Opera, the composer conducting;

  • 1998 - Michael Torke: "Jasper" for orchestra, by the Madison (Wisc.) Symphony, John DeMain conducting;

  • 1999 - Elmer Bernstein: Guitar Concerto, with Honolulu Symphony conducted by Samuel Wong and soloist Christopher Parkening;

  • 2002 - John Adams: "On the Transmigration of Souls" for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel conducting;

  • 2002 - John Adams: “On the Transmigration of Souls” for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel conducting;


  • 1725 - J.S. Bach gives organ recitals in the Sophienkirche, Dresden, on Sept. 19 and 20;

  • 1738 - Oratorio librettist Charles Jennens writes to a young relative describing a visit to Handel the previous day, dismayed by Handel's ideas for their collaboration on the oratorio "Saul": "Mr. Handel's head is more full of maggots than ever . . ." (Gregorian date: Sept. 30).

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®