Vaughan Williams made many settings of texts from Shakespeare throughout his life. This one, the Dirge for Fidele, was written for two Voices with Piano Accompaniment in 1922 as a stand-alone song. Its text is one of Shakespeare’s many celebrated songs, ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ including the lines ‘Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust’ from Cymbeline.
Perhaps one of music’s least dirge-like dirges, the accompaniment is soothing and the Vocal lines soaring. It was sung at Sir Laurence Olivier’s funeral at Westminster Abbey in 1989.