Today is the 50th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams' death. He is arguably one of England's greatest composers and the author of my very favorite piece of music, The Lark Ascending. I am unashamedly a fan (serious music critics consider his stuff too accessible, too "chocolate box" -- I think they are wrong). Read a Times piece here. An agnostic (related to both Darwin and Wedgwood), he wrote some of the most beautiful & rousing Anglican hymns (Come Down O Love Divine, At The Name of Jesus) and there is an inherent Englishness to his work which resonates with me. This is quoted from Wikipedia:
"In Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, Peter Ackroyd writes, "If that Englishness in music can be encapsulated in words at all, those words would probably be: ostensibly familiar and commonplace, yet deep and mystical as well as lyrical, melodic, melancholic, and nostalgic yet timeless."
He was stuck for many years in a loving but sexless marriage (his first wife, Adeline was crippled by arthritis), but fell in love with a woman of 27 when he was 65. He began an affair with her and they married when he was free to, at 80. She was the poet, Ursula Wood. His symphonies are wonderful (Symphony No. 1, The Sea Symphony in particular) -- EMI has the boxed set.