Music is ascending to higher plane as school opens its new auditorium


A new music venue will be named after the celebrated composer who taught music in the area in the early 20th century.

Officially opening in September, the new Community Music Centre at James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS) in East Dulwich Grove, East Dulwich will provide the school and community with complete facilities for music of all genres, from orchestral and choral through to contemporary bands and soloists.

The Vaughan Williams Auditorium will be the centrepiece with capacity to seat audiences of 500 people.

There will also be ample space for performers to rehearse ahead of their shows, with 15 practice rooms.

Hugh Cobbe, director of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, which was set up by the composer’s widow Ursula to promote his work, said: “Ralph Vaughan Williams once said that music enables people to see past facts to the very essence of things in a way which science cannot do.

“He would have been delighted that the new Community Music Centre at James Allen’s Girl’s School was to bear his name.

“So much of his music was intended for the wider community and the trust, set up under his widow’s will, very much has that in mind in its operations.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) is one of Britain’s most popular composers, whose works are still performed today. His piece The Lark Ascending has regularly topped polls of the country’s most popular pieces of classical music.

The only post he ever held for an annual salary was as a church organist and choirmaster at St Barnabas, in South Lambeth, from 1895 to 1899 for a salary of £50 a year.

He disliked the job, but working closely with a choir was valuable experience for his later undertakings.

He came to JAGS as director of music in 1904 and later introduced his friend Gustav Holst to the school.

Holst went on to teach music there for more than 15 years and the hall in the main school building is named after him.

Headmistress of JAGS, Sally-Anne Huang, said: “We can’t wait to open the doors to the new music centre and share it with our neighbours. This is not just about JAGS, it will also be here for
other local schools, musicians and  community groups.

“It is such a privilege to be able to commemorate Ralph Vaughan Williams in this way. Having the Vaughan Williams Auditorium alongside the Holst Hall will be a fitting tribute reflecting the exceptional musical heritage laid down by these great names and continued here at JAGS into the 21st  century.”

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