A miniature rite of a very English spring: a Vaughan Williams rediscovery in Liverpool

Imagine a folk dance without music. Actually, you don’t have to: poke about on YouTube and you’ll find footage from 1912 (there’s music dubbed on, but it’s a silent film) of Vaughan Williams’s friend George Butterworth in full Morris fig, going through the moves with Cecil Sharp and a pair of pinafore-wearing gals. Note the precision of his movements, that big Kitchener moustache: how seriously Butterworth is taking it, four years before he stopped a bullet on the Somme. And they really were sincere, those folk song pioneers. The same modernising impulse drove Bartok on his song-collecting journeys at the opposite end of Europe, and in 1913 – two weeks