Musical walk into the past

The Pilgrim's Progress - Composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams and performed by The Royal Opera. Barbican Hall, Tonight

It is telling that this production was commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain at a time of great transition - strong moral allegory can work wonders during an era of change, and the festival turned eyes from the horrors of the Second World War towards the regenerative effects of the consumer boom.

Ralph Vaughan Williams's composition and John Bunyan's allegorical story walk together in reliance on tradition and an appeal to the idealised past - but this will not be the only assurance of seamless translation of text to music, as Bunyan's allegory relies upon the premise of simplicity and universality.

The narrator embarks on a pilgrimage through the seven deadly sins, allegorised as places like the Slough of Despond, The Interpreter's house and the Valley of Humiliation, meeting people characterised as Mr Worldly Wiseman and Faithful along the way.

The history of John Bunyan's allegorical story, is a confusing blend of traditional morality and burgeoning liberty. This strong Christian allegory was written in the 17th century when Bunyan was in jail for preaching without a licence. Certainly he speaks with an authority that can make you wonder whether he should have a licence from God.

Ralph Vaughan Williams is also a paradox as an agnostic who composed Christian music. Williams was proclaimed as the quintessential English voice, which in a 20th-century composer open to European influence, was quite rare.

Looking backwards to traditional folk music, Williams once said he was "like a physical researcher who has actually seen a ghost".

It's enduring success as a universal allegory is testified by it's original circulation among the uneducated and that it has since been translated into well over 100 languages.

Barbican Hall, Silk Street, EC1 at 7pm. Tickets pounds 11-pounds 32 (0171-638 8891).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

    £25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor