Spring 2022

The Poets Speak

Sunday, April 24, 2022 | 3:00 pm

Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo

This wonderfully diverse concert, The Poets Speak, will include three musical masterpieces by one of England’s most revered composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams, inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman and George Herbert. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’s birth in 1872, the SLO Master Chorale will perform Fantasia on the “Old 104th” Psalm TuneFive Mystical Songs, and Dona nobis pacem.

Featured Artists

Joel Balzun

Joel Balzun


Alba Franco-Cancél

Alba Franco-Cancél


Beyond the Notes

Dr. Eric Saylor

Dr. Eric Saylor

Professor of Music History and Musicology at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa

Dr. Eric Saylor is Professor of Music History and Musicology at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

A specialist in British music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he is the author of English Pastoral Music: From Arcadia to Utopia, 1900–1955 (University of Illinois Press, 2017) and the forthcoming Vaughan Williams (Oxford University Press, 2022), the first entirely new life-and-works biography on the composer published in over half a century.

He is also co-editor, with Naomi André and Karen M. Bryan, of Blackness in Opera (2012), and of The Sea in the British Musical Imagination (2015), with Christopher Scheer. His research and writing has been published widely throughout North America and Europe, including for the Grove Dictionary of American MusicOxford Bibliographies Online, and the British Library’s “Discovering Music” online exhibition. He is a former president of the North American British Music Studies Association, and in 2019 served as a Visiting Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford. His other areas of scholarly interest include historiography, intersections of music and politics, and shape-note hymnody.

Speaking Event I:

The Composer in Wartime: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Music of Conflict

Friday, April 22 at 6:00 PM
Room 218, Davidson Music Center, Cal Poly

War and conflict formed a backdrop to much of Vaughan Williams’s life and career. His military service in the Great War and his contributions to life on the home front during World War II inspired both immediate creative responses—in works such as the Pastoral and Fifth Symphonies, the chamber opera The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, and Thanksgiving for Victory —and later ones powerfully informed by his experiences, including the oratorio Sancta Civitas, the cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, the Sixth Symphony, and Job: A Masque for Dancing.

This presentation will explore the nature of Vaughan Williams’s service at the front and at home, and the ways in which his experience with and understanding of conflict shaped his musical and expressive idioms.

Speaking Event II:

The Letter and the Spirit:
The Religious and Visionary Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams

Saturday, April 23 at 3:30PM
First Presbyterian Church, Wilson Hall
981 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo

There is no small irony in the fact that Vaughan Williams’s contributions to sacred music reveal a powerful understanding of and respect for religious faith, given his own lack of it. Yet in making his many contributions to hymnody and other genres of liturgical music—as well as non-liturgical pieces with sacred themes—Vaughan Williams hoped to elevate listeners to the same level of inspiration that he experienced when composing, or when he engaged with the works of visionary artists like Walt Whitman, George Meredith, William Blake, John Bunyan, and George Herbert. This talk will examine the complex and often contradictory nature of Vaughan Williams’s conception of religious belief, and the different artists and works that informed his own creative responses to such visionary and mystical topics.