17 December: Ravel and Vaughan Williams’ food-based friendship

Every day throughout Advent, the season of overindulgence, we’ll be telling a tale of an overindulgent composer


Composer: Ravel and Vaughan Williams


How indulgent: Collaboratively indulgent

How: In 1909, Ravel and Vaughan Williams went to Waterloo Station to enjoy not only each other’s company, but also a hearty meal of steak and kidney pudding, washed down with a pint of stout.

The French composer had a particular preference for this dish offered at the station. Ursula Vaughan Williams, the composer’s wife, recalled that her husband enjoyed taking his French friend sightseeing when staying in Britain. Ravel was surprised to find that he enjoyed English food. In contrast, whilst Vaughan Williams enjoyed nearby cafes whilst staying in France, he apparently felt uncomfortable being seated with Ravel when it came to ordering the food, since the Frenchman had more sophisticated culinary tastes.

Did you know: When Vaughan Williams was studying with Ravel in Paris, the Frenchman took his student to a restaurant to meet with a publisher in order to advance the apprentice’s career. Ravel and the publisher reportedly spent twenty minutes deciding what to eat!

Now indulge yourself with….. Incidental music to The First Nowell


This score for a nativity play was left 25% unfinished by Vaughan Williams upon his death in 1958, and it was completed by Roy Douglas, who was the musical assistant to William Walton, as well as to Vaughan Williams. In the true spirit of Christmas, the work was going to be given a matinee at Drury Lane Theatre to aid the Ockendon Venture, an organisation that built homes for young refugees. £4000 was raised for the refugees within a day of the premiere!