The vocal score of A Sea Symphony was first issued by Stainer & Bell in 1918, and the orchestral score was published six years later. Reflecting the experience of performances following the 1910 Leeds Festival premiere, together they included Vaughan Williams’s revisions up to that time, and have remained the staple texts for performances and recordings of the work for over a century. However, with the preparation of a new edition of the full score to incorporate the evidence of the composer’s further thoughts over four decades, and to correct errors and inconsistencies that came to light after a thorough checking of the source materials, the need to create a fresh redaction of the vocal score proved a welcome opportunity.
The result, presented in a modern, accessible engraving style, is fully compatible with its predecessor, retaining rehearsal marks but also adding bar numbers to assist choirs using a mixture of both scores. Where appropriate, the layout of the piano part has been altered for greater consistency and ease of playing, and discrepancies of punctuation, word division and capitalisation in the underlay, overlooked in the original setting, have been corrected according to contemporary best practice. The occasional archaic language of some footnotes has been revised. Walt Whitman’s text is reproduced diplomatically, as set by the composer. A complete account of the editorial procedure will be found in the preface and critical commentary of the new edition of the full score, to be published in 2023 along with newly originated performing material.