Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Songs of Madeleine Dring

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Songs of Madeleine Dring

Article excerpt


I FIRST CAME TO KNOW THE SONGS OF MADELEINE DRING IN JULY, 2000, just after the NATS Philadelphia Conference. After the convention, I was helping my friend, Glendower Jones, organize and reshelve the items he had displayed from his business, Classical Vocal Reprints. When I asked if he had anything "interesting" for me to listen to on the way home, he handed me a recording of Dring's music. As I drove, I could feel the excitement course through me as I realized I had found a virtually unknown composer whose music was very good.

That evening, I read the liner notes from cover to cover and wrote a long letter to Roger Lord, Dring's widower. Roger made possible my contact with Madeleine's friends and associates, including Courtney Kenny, Ray Holder, and Pamela Larkin, as well as people who have enthusiastically written about her, namely, Ro Hancock-Child and Alistair Fisher. He also introduced me to Lance Bowling of Cambria Music in California, who was instrumental in getting many of Madeleines pieces published and recorded long before the British showed interest in her. Kenny, who has worked with several opera companies in Britain and the U.S. as a vocal coach, now does a cabaret evening that includes a few vocal and piano solos of Dring. Holder is a professional pianist who played for Dring from time to time. I have met both Kenny and Bowling in person and plan to record several of the Dring song volumes with Holder in the fall.

What began as an enthusiasm for this literature became a passion for it and its creator. In my forties, already employed, and with no pressing need to continue my education, my interest in Dring compelled me to complete a DMA, with her music as my treatise topic. What follows is a short biography of Dring, complete with a description of her readily available art song repertoire suitable for studio use.1


When, suddenly and unexpectedly, one finds oneself with a legacy of music that, over the years, one has come to love and respect, it becomes necessary to find new champions to continue to promote it.2

The studio teacher or performer who is looking for postwar repertoire in the great English art song tradition has an opportune choice in the songs of Madeleine Dring (1923-1977). Composer, actress, pianist, and singer, Dring died abruptly from a brain aneurism at age fifty-three, leaving some of her works unfinished and many others unpublished and undated.

It is fortunate for her legacy that she was married for nearly thirty years to Roger Lord. Principal oboist with the London Symphony Orchestra for over thirty years (1952-1980s), Lord has worked diligently to get his late wife's works organized and performed. He tirelessly has written letters and sent packages to inquirers, asked friends to look at manuscripts, and petitioned others to record works. Lord's efforts have culminated in a wonderful catalogue of songs ready for studio and stage.


Born September 7, 1923, Madeleine was blessed with parents who noticed her musical aptitude and were deeply influential in her musical development. Her father's ease at the piano, playing imaginative accompaniments to tunes the family had heard on the radio, helped shape Madeleine's aural palette of color. She loved slipping in extra notes, no doubt due to early exposure to her father's improvisational skills.

Madeleine was given music lessons from a very young age, and by the age often played violin well enough to enter the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music on scholarship. This preparatory environment, in which she was surrounded by devoted adults like Angela Bull, Director of the Junior Department, was one that changed Dring forever. Bull regularly amassed forces to mount original plays and musicals; with her encouragement, Madeleine played parts in the shows, wrote dialogue, provided incidental music, and played in the orchestra. In short, Dring made her presence valuable during her student days, and her spirit is palpable when one looks over the beautifully preserved archives at the Royal College of Music. …

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