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Champagne, music and love - Ursula Vaughan Williams

Ursula Vaughan Williams was a poet, librettist and author who thought that “a party and some champagne could cure most woes and ailments”. Despite a 40-year age difference she was a good friend of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and married him in 1953. They kept an open house for their friends, “visited America, Greece, Italy, Majorca (to call on Robert Graves) and Austria in addition to travelling throughout Britain, and were regular attenders in London at concerts, recitals, art galleries, theatres, cinemas and the opera”.

In the five years of their married life, Ralph Vaughan Williams composed two symphonies and several choral works. In 1958 he died, and every year after that was, Ursula said, as long as the first long year after his death. But she rallied, and wrote his biography, “one of the best accounts of a composer's life”, gave almost all his manuscripts and sketchbooks to the British Museum, and served as founder-member of the trust which gave revenue from his performing rights to help young musicians and British music.

Her words can be heard in the music her husband set to her poetry; her love, in all her acts.

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