Vaughan Williams had a great fondness for the work of John Bunyan. Always aware of English heritage, he regarded him as one of the most powerful writers the country had ever produced. The setting of Mr Valiant-for-Truth’s great speech from Pilgrim’s Progress
seems to have been prompted by the death of Vaughan Williams’ close friend Dorothy Longman. Unaccompanied solo altos (a favourite sonority for Vaughan Williams) act as a quasi-narrator to introduce the words of the hero sung by the choir, which are set with characteristic modal harmony. First performed in 1942 it must have had great resonances for all living through the dark days of the Second World War, especially with the concluding trumpet effects that accompany the welcome of the righteous one into the court of heaven.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2005