Ralph Vaughan Williams, OM was born 12th October 1872 in the Cotswold village of Down Ampney. In a long and extensive career, he composed music notable for its power, nobility and expressiveness, representing, perhaps, the essence of `Englishness`.
He was a student at the Royal College of Music and Trinity College, Cambridge and later he was a pupil of Stanford and Parry at the Royal College of Music after which he studied with Max Bruch in Berlin and Maurice Ravel in Paris and he served as a lieutenant in World War I.
He wrote nine symphonies between 1910 and 1958 as well as numerous other works including chamber music, opera, choral music and film scores. He was also a collector of British folk music and served as president of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). The Society`s Vaughan Williams Memorial Library is named after him.
At the turn of the century he was among the very first to travel into the countryside to collect folk-songs and carols from singers, notating them for future generations to enjoy. As musical editor of The English Hymnal he composed several hymns that are now world-wide favourites (For all the Saints, Come down O love Divine). Later he also helped to edit The Oxford Book of Carols, with similar success.
He was married twice, his first wife, Adeline Fisher, died in 1951 after many years of suffering from crippling arthritis. In 1953 he married the poet Ursula Wood (b. 1911), whom he had known since the late 1930s and with whom he collaborated on a number of vocal works. Ursula later wrote Vaughan Williams`s biography RVW: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, which remains the standard work on his life.
In his lifetime, Vaughan Williams eschewed all honours with the exception of the Order of Merit which was conferred upon him in 1938. He died on the 26th August 1958, his ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey, near Purcell.