The Silver Hound



 Betty Roe

Words by:

 Ursula Vaughan Williams (15 March 1911 – 23 October 2007)

Date of composition:



 Robish Music


 Tenor voice, French Horn (in F), Piano


 c. 11 minutes

Vocal Range(s):



 Art song, Song cycle


This work was written in 1990 and had its first performance, at Leighton House, Kensington, London, on the composer's 60th birthday. The performers were the composer's daughter, Lesley Bishop (Horn), and Peter Kerr (Tenor) with Richard Wilkins (Piano).

Published by Thames Publishing as a reproduction of the composer's manuscript in 1993. Revised and re-published in a typeset edition by Robish Music in 2008.

The Text by Ursula Vaughan Williams, follows the structure of Jaques “Seven Ages of Man” speech from Shakespeare's “As you like it”.

  1. The Prologue suggests that the singer's memory thinking back over his life is like sending a faithful dog (The Silver Hound) in search of birds that have been shot. Each of the ages is to be dug up. This ties up with the theme of “The Quarry” in Man Without Myth.

  2. Lullaby recalls that as a baby he was aware of the dangers of nature including a reference to the nursery rhyme Hush-a-bye Baby.

  3. The schoolboy regrets not having paid more attention to his studies.

  4. The soldier sees his pride, hunger and death.

  5. Interlude – the solo horn echoes a martial theme and introduces the lover

  6. The lover uses other men's poetry to woo his love.

  7. The statesman is aware of the hardship that lies behind his current good fortune.

  8. The old man accepts his dotage, watching the birds feed.

  9. In the epilogue he wonders if the “selves” the hound has fetched really make up man's life.

Programming Suggestions

Tenor and Horn is a particularly good coupling due to the similarity of timbres.

  • Benjamin Britten: Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings is still very effective in the piano reduction of the vocal score. Also Canticle III: Still falls the Rain and the related Three Songs from The Heart of the Matter.

  • Franz Schubert's setting of Rellstab's Auf Dem Strom (On the Water) D934 is a particularly beautiful and unfortunately rarely performed song. At around 8 to 9 minutes in performance it forms a substantial item, the horn adding a sense of longing to the song.

  • Fanders and Swann's Ill Wind (based on Mozart Horn Concerto in Eb No.3) might be arranged for a humorous encore

A Programme might also be built up with other songs and Horn Pieces by Betty Roe;


    • Conversation Piece - French Horn, Piano - Thames Publishing THA978744
    • Introduction and Allegretto - French Horn, Piano - Thames Publishing THA978022
    • Three Dedications – Medium/High Voice and Piano - Thames Publishing THA978766
    • These Growing Years – High Voice & Piano - Thames Publishing THA978203
    • Soliloque and Dialogue - Horn and Piano - Robish Music

    The Text has also been set by Alun Hoddinott.