A Celebration of Vaughan Williams

Saturday 3 December 2022, 7:30 pm

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Please note: this concert has taken place.

The OBC opens its 126th season with a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the great composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. No other composer has enjoyed such a close relationship with the choir as RVW, for we were among the first choirs in the country to perform his major choral works, and we worked together for almost half a century.

We therefore commemorate that special relationship by performing VW’s oratorio Sancta Civitas, which we ourselves premiered in the Sheldonian Theatre in May 1926. Sancta Civitas is based on the Book of Revelation and takes the listener from the terrors of war and its desolate aftermath (whose depictions remind one that VW had seen these for himself when serving in the First World War) to the ecstasy of the Last Judgement. It was VW’s own favourite among his choral works. Professor Dan Grimley, from Oxford University, an expert on Vaughan Williams, will talk during the concert about this important work.  Merton College Girl Choristers will join OBC for this performance.

The other major work in the concert will be Dona Nobis Pacem, a cantata written in 1936, and never before sung by the OBC. As its date and name suggests, this deeply moving piece is filled with foreboding for another war, but also hopes of a happier future. VW sets words from the Bible, but also from other sources, including Walt Whitman, who always inspired VW to write his very best music.

These two works, paired with the much-loved Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis, will make for a very special evening, not least because we will sing Sancta Civitas in the very building where it was first heard almost a century ago.


Conductor: Benjamin Nicholas

Soloist: Ailish Tynan (soprano) Ruairi Bowen (tenor) Gareth Brynmor John (bass)

Orchestra: Philharmonia

Duration: Two hours including interval

Tickets: £15-£45

Book by phone: 01865 305305

Under-18s and full-time students