THIS PAGE is for choirs looking to do a premiere performance of a new arrangement of a large scale choral work with orchestra.

'Folk Songs of The Four Seasons' by Ralph Vaughan Williams – In A New Arrangement for Mixed Choir (SATB) and Orchestra by John Whittaker (2019)


 Are you a choir looking for a 'big' choral work by Vaughan Williams in a new arrangement that as yet has still to be performed? If so, do not hesitate to contact me for further details. Here is a little information about it:


A Brief Overview of The Original Work.

                 Vaughan Williams wrote the cantata 'Folk Songs of The Four Seasons' in 1949, based on traditional folk songs for the Women's Institute. It was performed the following year at the Royal Albert Hall, London, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. The original scoring is for upper voices – sopranos and altos and a large orchestra. An alternative scoring was also provided by the composer for piano and strings. It could also in theory be performed with just the piano accompaniment provided in the original Piano/Vocal Score – although in my opinion it would rather diminish the experience of the listener. In 1952 an instrumental suite of some of the music was made by Roy Douglas. (One movement is sometimes played on Classic FM. radio) No arrangement for SATB was ever made. The work consists of fifteen folk song arrangements following the course of the year - in four sections corresponding to the four seasons, from Spring to Winter. The large orchestra is used quite sparingly and sensitively depending on the character of each song - and indeed four songs are just for unaccompanied voices only.

The duration is approx. 45 minutes



a) There is a superb Albion Records recording (2009) of the original version with the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge & Dmitri Ensemble, Cambridge, conducted by Sir David Willcocks.  (It was the last of the many fine choral recordings that he made.)

The recording can be purchased directly from the Vaughan Williams Society:

Link: Vaughan Williams Society



b) Recordings of Extracts of the SATB Version

Four Movements have now been sung through and recorded in a 'rehearsal' session by the Vaughan Williams Singers under the direction of Ian Assersohn, accompanied on the piano by Jan Assersohn.  (Ian's musical expertise and enthusiasm has also been of great assistance in various ways, including the proof-reading of the score.) Here are the recordings, just as a guide, to listen to:


i)  'Early in The Spring' (unaccompanied)



ii) 'The Lark in The Morning' (extract only)



iii) 'The Sprig of Time' (extract only)



iv) 'An Acre of Land




About the SATB Arrangement.


The original version has had few performances since it was written – simply because most large choirs come complete with tenor and bass sections. As a result this means that this unique, and wonderful choral work by Vaughan Williams is sadly much neglected. To help remedy the situation, I have written and prepared this SATB arrangement in a Piano/Vocal Score suitable for performance use. This arrangement is devised to fit exactly the original orchestral score, so a new full orchestral score is not strictly necessary. Almost every single note of Vaughan Williams is retained from the original vocal parts, but some re-distribution of parts and expansion of harmonic lines (based on the original harmonies ) has been made. The florid, decorative, 'descant' soprano lines have all been kept, so as not lose the deftness and 'airiness' of the original.  I would like to think that the added depth and colour of the addition of the lower voices actually enhances much of the music. The vocal parts compared to the works of the 'standard' repertoire of big choral works are of 'medium' difficulty.


an example page of the SATB Piano/Vocal Score


Suggestion for a Performance of just the first Three Sections

If the first three sections only are performed (to exclude the Winter section with its strong association with Christmas), then it is suggested that the order of the movements be changed so that 'John Barleycorn', which probably makes the best song to finish with, comes at the end. An alternative ordering of the movements is suggested in my Piano/Vocal Score.


Towards a First Performance...

Vaughan Williams often made or commissioned arrangements of his own music to facilitate performances, so I feel that I am fully justified in making this arrangement, especially in view of the rarity of performances of this particular piece.. In doing this, I acknowledge the support and encouragement I have received from members of the Vaughan Williams Society in this project.

This new SATB arrangement is yet to be fully performed. As the copyright of the original score is owned by OUP, a temporary licence has been granted by OUP for its first performances.

I hope that choirs looking for something new to perform in the future, will be interested in considering this SATB arrangement. A choir in Pennsylvania, USA has been first in already programming it for 2022 - Vaughan Williams' 150th anniversary year.  However with the effects of the pandemic causing immense difficulities, as yet no UK choir has confirmed that they will take up the challenge...


PDF's of the music are available on request.

For more details, please contact me through my contact page.


John Whittaker 2021