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Camden New Journal - by DAN CARRIER
Published: 8 November 2007
Ursula Vaughan Williams
Ursula Vaughan Williams
Hundreds pay tribute to Vaughan Williams

Friends share their memories of composer’s widow

FRIENDS of Urusla Vaughan Williams have paid their respects to the memory of the poet and biographer and widow of renowned composer Ralph.
Mrs Vaughan Williams, who passed away two weeks ago aged 96, had lived in Gloucester Crescent, Camden Town for more than 40 years. She was a respected writer and worked tirelessly for the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society, which manages the affairs of her late husband’s work and promotes classical music.
At the start of an hour-long service at the St John’s Wood parish church on Monday, minister Dr Reverend Anders Bergquist told a congregation of more than 200 people that Mrs Vaughan Williams’s funeral should be seen as a chapter in the story of England’s cultural development.
He said: “A sense of history lies upon us. I have a sense that this is a historic occasion.”
Dr Bergquist told the assembled mourners of family, neighbours, composers and musicians of Mrs Vaughan Williams’s influence on Ralph’s career – and then praised her own literary ability.
During the service the church’s choir sang hymns arranged to her late husband’s music and her poem ‘No Hand In The Night’ was read by friend Jill Balcon, the actress and widow of poet Cecil Day-Lewis.
Family friend Lord Armstrong of Ilminster spoke of how he had met Mrs Vaughan Williams 60 years ago. He recalled how he had been organising a Ralph Vaughan Williams music festival while at Oxford University and the composer had come to hear a performance of the music.
Lord Armstrong re­vealed how Ursula’s gentle care of her husband – she was more than three decades his junior – had helped the composer’s work.
He said: “She was skilful at looking after him, making his life pleasant, but not cramping his style.”
Following Ralph’s death Ursula took on the task of writing his biography.
Lord Armstrong added: “She had considerable literary gifts – she had first brought herself to Ralph’s attention when she had sent him a ­scenario for a ballet.
“She then bravely wrote his biography. There was the risk that objectivity would be compromised by her affection.
“Although I cannot say that the book is impartial, it is certainly objective.”
He recalled happy times with the pair, visiting them at their home
in Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park each Monday to sing madrigals.
Lord Hamilton said: “Ursula loved a party – she liked going to them and throwing them. Above all, we will all remember what immense fun it was to be in her company.”

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