Concert to mark 100 years since first performance of The Lark Ascending

A performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ beloved classical music piece The Lark Ascending will take place in the same hall where it was first played to the public 100 years ago.

The concert, which will be streamed for free online, will feature a shortened version of the original 1920 programme at Bristol’s Shirehampton Public Hall.

Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia On Christmas Carols, Bach’s Concerto For Two Violins and Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem will be performed as part of the event.

Violin soloist Jennifer Pike rehearses for the performance (Ben Birchall/PA)
Violin soloist Jennifer Pike rehearses for the performance (Ben Birchall/PA)

Renowned violin soloist Jennifer Pike will perform the piece alongside Bristol Ensemble and Exultate Singers.

The Lark Ascending was voted the nation’s favourite piece in 2020 in Classic FM’s Hall Of Fame poll, and by 25,000 listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs back in 2011.

Todd Wills, artistic director at Bristol Beacon, which is holding the event with Bristol Ensemble, said: “We’ve been talking for a long time about how to celebrate such a special piece of music and its unique connection to Bristol.

“We’re so pleased that despite the challenges, we have been able to work with Shirehampton Public Hall and Bristol Ensemble to perform this concert in its original setting – which is a very special achievement.”

The Lark Ascending, which was composed in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War and inspired by the poem of the same name by George Meredith, tells the story of a skylark singing a beautiful song.

Vaughan Williams adapted the final draft of the piece in collaboration with soloist Marie Hall while staying at Kings Weston House in Bristol.

The countdown to celebrating The Lark Ascending Centenary is on 🥳

Join us with @JenniferPikeVLN, @BristolEnsemble & @exultatesingers online tomorrow night – 100 years to the day since its premiere – at Shirehampton Public Hall.

More 👇

— Bristol Beacon (@Bristol_Beacon) December 14, 2020

He dedicated the piece to her and she gave the premiere at nearby Shirehampton Public Hall on December 15 1920.

The piece was regarded as rejoicing in the English landscape, evoking memories of time before the war and hope for a better future.

Roger Huckle, artistic director of Bristol Ensemble, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the centenary.

“It’s a really important part of Bristol and UK musical history and an uplifting story to tell in these difficult times.”

Soloist Jennifer Pike was made an MBE in the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours for services to classical music.

She said she felt a “deep connection” to the piece, having spent much of her life performing it.

“I am honoured to bring it to this historic stage 100 years on from its premiere, and at a time when music is needed more than ever,” she said.

In addition to the concert, an education programme is taking place in local schools to teach children the story of Vaughan Williams.

The Lark Ascending Centenary will be broadcast at 7.30pm on Tuesday, with donations welcome. To watch, visit