Vaughan Williams thoroughly disliked the romantic hymn tunes of the Victorian era, writing that ‘they are positively harmful to those who sing and hear them’ (a moral attitude that perhaps we need to hear more of today). In replacing them he was able to bring his own ability to be in touch with what people want to sing that had developed through his study of folksong. The words, a translation by Richard Frederick Littledale from the fourteenth-century Italian of Bianco da Siena have a glowing warmth. This brings Vaughan Williams’s gifts to full flower in a tune which fully expresses the words without the least hint of sentimentality. In each half of the tune, after two phrases with repeated rhythm he writes a swifter-moving line that gathers all to a conclusion. Down Ampney is the Cotswold village where he was born.
from notes by Alan Luff © 1999