Vaughan Williams - English Folksongs Suite

One of the first serious pieces written by a top composer for military band, and still popular today.

Vaughan Williams was a proudly British composer. He adored his homeland, having been born in the idyllic Gloucestershire village of Downampney. Alongside his fondness for native landscapes, Vaughan Williams was also rather sentimental about Britain's musical history. The existence of military bands was something he recognised as being crucially important to the UK's cultural and community life. so, in 1923, he composed his English Folk Songs Suite for them.

It was originally commissioned by the band of the Royal Military School of Music and called just Folk Song Suite. The following year, when the piece was arranged for full orchestra, it acquired the word 'English' at the beginning of the title.

The Suite contains many different folk songs from the counties of Norfolk and Somerset, including 'Seventeen Come Sunday', 'Pretty Caroline', 'Dives and Lazarus', 'My Bonny Boy', 'Green Bushes', 'Blow Away the Morning Dew', 'High Germany', and 'The Tree So High'.

The three movements are a 'March', an 'Intermezzo', and another 'March' based on four folk songs from Somerset. It originally had a fourth movement, 'Sea Songs', which was played second, but the composer removed it after the first performance and published it separately.

Along with Gustav Holst’s two suites for military band, this is a pioneering piece - and one of the earliest serious works - for military band.