To round off its celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society has announced an intriguing new project. The Society has joined forces with the Wildlife Sound Recording Society (WSRS) and the British Library's Wildlife and Environmental Sounds collection to gather examples of the song of the skylark – the bird whose exuberant, melodious singing inspired the composer's much-loved piece The Lark Ascending.


The project, named Larks Ascending, will create a new archive of skylark recordings at the British Library. These will be available to researchers, musicians and the public.

The project is supported by violinist Tasmin Little, who recorded one of our very favourite performances of The Lark Ascending.

'I am delighted to be associated with the Larks Ascending project, which will be an invaluable resource to capture the beauty, diversity and subtlety of this bird song,' said Tasmin. 'As someone who has experienced the joy of performing Vaughan Williams’ famous piece, The Lark Ascending, and its deep effects upon audiences, I hope that this brand new archive will be a way to inspire the creation of new compositions to complement the existing repertoire.'

Larks Ascending aims to reflect in detail the rich variety in skylark songs, despite their apparent overall similarity. The project will examine how each individual song might relate to factors such as location, weather and time of year.

It is hoped that composers will be inspired by the Larks Ascending archive to follow Vaughan Williams's example and write music which showcases this iconic bird — using these new recordings in a variety of creative ways.

The project also aims to raise awareness of the dramatic decline in skylark numbers. It's estimated that UK skylark numbers have dropped by around 70% over the past 50 years, largely because of modern farming practices.

'The project's focus on this much-loved bird and its ever-exuberant song will hopefully widen appreciation of how real are the continuing threats to bird and animal life in the British countryside,' explains Andrew Green of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society.

The new skylark recordings will be made through the spring and summer. Anyone with good sound recording skills is invited to add their own contributions to those of WSRS members.


Full details are available via the RVW Society ( or the WSRS (


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.