Vaughan Williams - SATB - 'Folk Songs of the Four Seasons' (version for SATB)

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 that is full of good, strong tunes and something that your choir has never sung before?  Perhaps you could consider ‘The Folk Songs of The Four Seasons’…..


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 a commission from the Women’s Institute. It was performed the following year at the Royal Albert Hall, London, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. In 1952 an instrumental suite of some of the music was made by Roy Douglas. The original scoring is for upper voices – sopranos and altos and a large orchestra. An alternative scoring was also provided by the composer for a smaller-sized orchestra. Although primarily intended to be sung with an orchestra, it can be performed with just the piano accompaniment. 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.  Four of the folk songs are for unaccompanied voices only.

The duration is approx. 45 minutes



 There is an Albion Records recording (2009) of the original SSA version, conducted by Sir David Willcocks.  

The recording can be purchased directly from the Vaughan Williams Society

The premiere performance of this SATB arrangement was successfully given in Reading, Pennsylvania, USA on Sat. May 7th, 2022, by the Berks Sinfonietta and Vox Philia (artistic director David A. McConnell).

Other First Performances:

The Penshurst Choral Society, Kent, UK performed the first half (Spring and Summer) in their Summer Concert, 2022. 

The ‘Winter’ Section was performed by the choir at Fremont Presbyterian Church, USA (conductor, Rachel Jackson) in December 2022.


About the SATB Arrangement.

The original SSA version has had relatively 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, large-scale choral work by Vaughan Williams has been 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 with the original orchestral score; almost every note of Vaughan Williams is faithfully retained from the original vocal parts by a process of re-distribution of parts with some expansion of the harmonic lines. I believe that the added depth and colour of the addition of the lower voices enhances much of the music. The vocal parts compared to the works of the ‘standard’ repertoire of big choral works are reasonably easy, although the unaccompanied sections are slightly more demanding. These can be sung by a smaller semi-chorus if felt appropriate.


In making this arrangement, I acknowledge the support that I have received from the Vaughan Williams Society, Ian Assersohn and the Vaughan Williams singers (who were first to trial some of the music) and OUP [Oxford University Press] in this project.   As the copyright of the original score is owned by OUP, a license has been granted by OUP for the immediate future.


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.


Interested in performing this arrangement?

For more details, contact me through my contact page.

 PDF’s of the music are available free of charge on request.

John Whittaker 2024