Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Amanda Aldridge, Teacher and Composer: A Life in Music

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Amanda Aldridge, Teacher and Composer: A Life in Music

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH THE NAME OF MONTAGUE RING is not familiar to most musicians today, this London composer wrote music that was extremely popular in Europe in the early twentieth century. Major music publishing firms published numerous songs in London by Ring between the years 1907 and 1925. Written predominantly in a romantic parlor song style fashionable in that day, Montague Ring's songs for voice and piano numbered almost thirty, although the composer's output included various compositions for other instruments that also gained considerable recognition.

A bit of investigation into this little known composer with the distinguished-sounding British high society name reveals a surprise - that Montague Ring was merely the pseudonym adopted by Afro-British female composer Amanda Ira Aldridge, born Amanda Christina Elizabeth Aldridge (1866-1956). Although reasons vary as to why composers opt to publish under a name other than their own, in Amanda Aldridge's case, it may well be that her chosen pseudonym allowed her a degree of separation between her varied career pursuits.1 Amanda Aldridge was an active, accomplished musician during her long career and gained public attention through the various "hats" she wore as concert singer, piano accompanist, and voice teacher, as well as the composer Montague Ring. Particularly impressive is the musical circle in which she traveled in London as well as her vocal pedigree - she was an early pupil of Jenny Lind (famously known as the "Swedish Nightingale") at the Royal College of Music in London. Aldridge is also attributed with providing voice instruction to some of the most acclaimed artists of the twentieth century, including African American singers Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. The accomplishment of so many careers was certainly inspired, and reinforced, by an additional significant detail about Amanda Aldridge she was the daughter of one of the most acclaimed tragedians of his time in Europe, the African American actor Ira Aldridge.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1810, Ira had left the United States for England in 1824 to pursue and develop a European stage career. Amanda Aldridge, born March 10, 1866 in Upper Norwood, London as the third child of Ira Aldridge and Swedish born opera singer Amanda Pauline von Brandt, came naturally by her precocious performing talent. Her father Ira had appeared on stage in such demanding Shakespearian roles as King Lear, Shylock, and Macbeth for theaters both in Great Britain and across the continent. As the first black man to play these roles, Ira left an impressive legacy when he died in Poland in 1867, while Amanda was yet an infant. So important were his contributions to the thespian world that the Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon Avon in 1932 dedicated a bronze plaque inscribed with his name.

Ira's own life had been quite colorful. He first was married to Margaret Aldridge, the daughter of a London merchant, with whom he had a son, Ira Daniel. During this marriage he met the young Amanda Pauline von Brandt, twenty-seven years his junior, with whom he would start a second family. Following Margaret's death at age sixty-six in 1864, Amanda Pauline became Ira's legal second wife. It is unclear if Margaret knew about the existence of her husband's children with Amanda Pauline; one speculates whether Ira's acting skills may have served him well in surreptitiously maintaining two families. The children of Ira and Amanda Pauline (Luranah, Ira Fred, and Amanda) were joined by another girl born four months after Ira's death. Amanda Aldridge's mother apparently took great efforts to keep Ira's African American heritage thriving in her four children along with a legacy of his acting career.

The influence of Ira Aldridge's fame and theatrical/ musical performing abilities on his children continued long after his death. All of his offspring were gifted musically and were encouraged in their artistic endeavors. Amanda Pauline, herself a gifted singer, took her children to concerts at the Crystal Palace from an early age to expose them to quality music. …

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