Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Kenneth Fulton


Choral music occupies a central place in the compositional output of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Some pieces, such as the Sea Symphony (1909), Five Mystical Songs (1911), Mass in G minor (1922), and Serenade to Music (1938), have become standards in the choral repertoire. Others, such as Sancta Civitas (1925), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936) and Hodie (1954), may be less familiar, but have still received considerable critical acclaim. A few pieces remain relatively unknown even to choral conductors. Two choral works, Epithalamion (1957) and An Oxford Elegy (1949), fall into this latter category. This monograph is the first detailed study of these compositions. An Oxford Elegy and Epithalamion are unique among Vaughan Williams's compositions: An Oxford Elegy is the only work to combine speaker with textless choral singing and orchestra; Epithalamion is the only choral piece adapted from a masque (The Bridal Day, 1938). Both are settings of texts by important British poets: An Oxford Elegy combines lines from Matthew Arnold's The Scholar Gipsy and Thyrsis; while Epithalamion features selected stanzas from Edmund Spenser's famous poem by that name. The monograph is divided into two chapters, the first being an examination of An Oxford Elegy; the second a study of Epithalamion. Each chapter provides background information on the works, discussion of the original poems upon which the works are based, the identification and discussion of the most prominent stylistic elements in the scores, and consideration of how these works compare with other choral compositions by Vaughan Williams. The study is done in conjunction with the release of a commercial recording of these works (Centaur CRC 2299), conducted by the author.