The nine symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams were composed over more than half a century. He began sketching ideas for A Sea Symphony in 1903, two years after the death of Queen Victoria, and completed the ninth in 1958, two years before John F. Kennedy was elected 35th President of the United States. During this long period, Vaughan Williams became one of the very few twentieth-century composers whose music was known to the general public. A Sea Symphony is his first and longest symphony and is one of the first in which a choir is used throughout the work and is an integral part of the musical texture. The text comes from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, at a time when his poems were little known in England.