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Opus 33
The Lady of Shalott

Written in 1908-09, this highly-charged setting of Tennyson's dramatic poem was neither published nor performed in the composer's lifetime. After more than 100 years, here it is at last.

About this work

First performance

Composed in 1909, Op.33 "The Lady of Shalott"  lay neglected and forgotten for a very long time. The first public performance did not take place until September 1999, in the School Hall at Eton College.

The 1999 concert at Eton College was researched, rehearsed and conducted by Robert Tucker, whose Broadheath Singers over a 25-year period revived or gave first performances to many lost works by British composers. Our deepest thanks to Robert for bringing this work to life, 90 years after it was composed!

The work existed only as the manuscript full score, so the composer Rodney Newton was asked to typeset the full score and to create a piano reduction to accompany the vocal score. The work was then rehearsed by the Broadheath Singers over the summer of 1999, leading up to the first performance on 18 September 1999.

Concert flyer for The Lady of Shalott

Concert flyer for the first performance:
Cyril Rootham's Op.33 "The Lady of Shalott"


This recording

This recording was made at the very first performance on 18 September 1999, in the School Hall at Eton College: conductor Robert Tucker.

School Hall, Eton College

The School Hall, Eton College
Photo: Windsor & Maidenhead Symphony Orchestra

Poignantly this concert also included a work by Rootham's pupil Armstrong Gibbs: "La belle dame sans merci". And here is another historical and sentimental link: in 1958 Rootham's erstwhile pupil Arthur Bliss composed a 40-minute ballet suite titled... "The Lady of Shalott".



At the very first performance in 1999, the mezzo-soprano soloist was Deborah Miles-Johnson. We are very grateful to Deborah for giving us permission to play this historic recording on the Cyril Rootham website.

Deborah Miles-Johnson

Deborah Miles-Johnson
Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

There is more information on the Deborah Miles-Johnson page at Davies Music.


Orchestral forces

In the manuscript score, Cyril Rootham lists the requirements. In addition to a mezzo-soprano soloist and full chorus (SATB), he asks for an orchestra with this instrumentation:

Choir and Orchestra

Photo: Ember Choral Society

Do not miss the absolutely joyful writing for bass tuba just after rehearsal figure 24, about 16 minutes into the work!


Publication status

We are most grateful to St John's College, Cambridge for granting access to the original manuscript score (both to Robert Tucker in the 1990s and to Dan Rootham in 2014).

The sheet music for Rootham's "The Lady of Shalott" has been newly engraved for publication by Anna Iuferova and will be available from London Music Press during 2019. We are most grateful to Alistair Jones for his help in proofreading and to Stewart Thompson for his role in publishing the work.

If your choral society would like to perform Rootham's "The Lady of Shalott", do please contact us through our Feedback page. We will be very glad to provide support: an advance copy of the vocal score, access to practice files and so on.

Manuscript score: The Lady of Shalott

The opening page of CBR's original manuscript full score
By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge



The Lady of Shalott (1888) by Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott
(John William Waterhouse, 1888)  

Tennyson's poem is most closely associated with the painting "The Lady of Shalott" by John William Waterhouse. We don't know whether Cyril Rootham was inspired by this painting, but the dates certainly allow for that possibility.

You can see a larger image of this beautiful Pre-Raphaelite work on Wikipedia, and the painting is usually on display at Tate Britain.


Historical background

Opus 33 sets to music the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Originally written in 1833, the ballad was re-worked as a 19-stanza version published in 1842. The Rootham setting uses the later 1842 version.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
portrait by P.Krämer-Friedrich Bruckmann

The poem was particularly popular amongst artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who shared Tennyson's interest in Arthuriana. As well as Waterhouse, several of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood made paintings based on episodes from the poem.