Publication: Journal of Singing
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 78638
ISSN: 10867732
Journal code: JRLS

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.2 Frederick became a pianist and composer, often accompanying Amanda in recital. Amanda's older sister Luranah enjoyed the greater success in her singing career, living in Paris and performing on the continent in principal opera houses. Luranah was engaged at the Royal Opera House and also appeared at the Bayreuth Festival, befriending Richard Wagner's daughter, Eva. She traveled in musical and literary circles that included Charles Gounod and George Sand. In a letter to Sir Augustus Harris of Covent Garden, Royal Opera, Gounod described Luranah as possessing "une des plus belles voix qui existent" (one of the most beautiful voices that exists).3 Amanda, whose secondary study in piano at the Royal College had prepared her for piano as well as vocal performance, often accompanied Luranah. Sadly, both of Amanda's older siblings eventually met with tragic endings. Frederick threw himself out a window while in a high fever at the age of twenty-five, leaving a young widow behind. Luranah, who like Amanda never married, was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis at the peak of her career and was confined to a wheelchair under Amanda's care for some twenty years. To escape her pain and depression, Luranah eventually took her own life through an overdose in 1932. Amanda also cared for her mother until her death in 1915, an additional factor that precluded any opportunity to marry. Amanda recounted humorously to Edward Scobie, Ira Aldridge's biographer, "But don't you get the impression, young man, that Cupid stayed away from my door."4 At one point in her life Amanda had expressed romantic feelings for a Jamaican surgeon, Dr. David Phillips. While in training at a London hospital, he heard her in recital and corresponded with her for years; however, she was so entrenched in family duty that a marriage never materialized.


Amanda was encouraged in her musical studies in both piano and voice from an early age. Her mother Amanda Pauline had been an opera singer and may well have inspired young Amanda's vocal tendencies by singing in the home. Amanda herself recalled in later years, "From my birth I was in an atmosphere of music for my mother, who was Swedish, was an artiste with an unusually beautiful voice."5 Ira Aldridge was also known for his deep, rich singing voice and had performed in opera and musical drama. He accompanied himself on the Spanish guitar in ballads, comic songs, and minstrel and slave songs during his career.6 (Amanda was to cherish his guitar throughout her life, later bequeathing it in her will to the Ira Aldridge Society, along with the swords he used in his performances as Othello).7 It is unlikely that his singing had a direct influence on Amanda, as he died when she was only seventeen months old. What is conceivable, however, is that his legacy was kept alive in the household and may have been held as a standard for all the children, motivating their pursuits. Records indicate that one of Amanda's early singing appearances took place with orchestra in 1881 at age fifteen at the Crystal Palace in which she sang the music of Handel.8 Amanda's voice gained further notice when she sang in a competition in 1883 for entrance to the newly organized Royal College of Music. At that time, fifty scholarship positions were offered to entering pupils, nine of which were awarded to singers. Amanda's successful audition for the Royal College garnered her a position in the studio of the famous Jenny Lind, who had been requested to teach at the Royal College by the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VII).

Having enjoyed unprecedented success in her concert career, Jenny Lind (1820-1887) simultaneously had dignified the career of performer for women, and, in following her example, more young women than ever before enrolled in vocal studies. As well as encouraging young singers, Lind was generous with her time, talent, and money in promoting many charities. Her extraordinary career experiences no doubt informed and enlivened her teaching, of which Amanda was a recipient. As Jenny Lind had known both of Amanda's parents (being a singer of Swedish birth, like Amanda Pauline), it is possible that she was drawn to the young Amanda because of her friendship for her parents as well as her outstanding talent. Amanda's mother, Amanda Pauline, was formerly known as the Swedish soprano Paulina Ericksson Brandt and had studied under Jenny Lind's second singing tutor, Herr Berg.9 In any event Amanda, gifted with a rich contralto voice, was one of the privileged few to gain acceptance into Lind's studio as only the second scholar to enroll at the new Royal College. Apparently, her work there was most satisfactory; Scholar's Reports, or student records, from the College in Lind's own handwriting for the years 1883-85 indicated "Talented. Has Made Progress" and "Has made excellent progress."10 As no known recordings exist of Amanda's singing, such reports as well as review statements of her numerous recitals confirm her considerable talent.

When Lind retired from her teaching post after three years, Amanda continued her vocal studies with Sir George Henschel and began her public career using her father's name, as "Miss Ira Aldridge." Henschel (1850-1934), a noted English baritone, pianist, conductor, and composer, was a professor of singing at the Royal College from 1886 to 1888. A gifted song recitalist, Henschel was perhaps better known as founder of the London Symphony Concerts and later the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Although little is known of Amanda's vocal work with Henschel, it is logical to assume that he imparted much in the way of interpretive insight and style to her own recitals. Performances in 1898 at the Queen's Small Hall, Langham Place, indicate she sang everything from Italian arias to German lieder to English Country songs representing composers of her day, such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Herbert Parry, and Maud Valerie White. Reviews from the late 1890s, when Amanda's singing career was flourishing, indicate the beauty of her voice, her musical intelligence, and interpretive acuity. The Daily Telegraph (June 3, 1896) noted: "the artist . . . possesses a contralto voice of considerable richness, which she uses with much skill and intelligence." Following one of Amanda's recitals in June 1905, the London Times reported "Miss Aldridge's style is excellent, her voice warm and mellow, and her intelligence far beyond dispute; the combination may well serve to explain the measure of her success."11 Another recital program from the Queen's Small Hall in 1914 indicated she appeared with her sister Luranah in recital, not only alternating in vocal sets under her own name, but also performing her recent piano composition of 1913, Three African Dances, as the composer Montague Ring. Three African Dances, which featured West African thematic material, would in time become one of her best known works.

It would appear that Amanda did not remain anonymous as Montague Ring, and her public must have been somewhat aware of the pseudonym and of her compositions. Sadly, Amanda's blossoming singing career drew to a gradual close after a severe case of laryngitis reportedly left her permanently damaged vocally - or at least seriously compromised. She continued to accompany her sister Luranah who was enjoying a notable career on the continent as a contralto soloist, and it was during this time that Amanda was especially active in her composing career.


Amanda's potential for teaching voice was recognized early on by Jenny Lind. In her desire to encourage Amanda's teaching career, and possibly open doors for her in London's musical society, Lind provided her with a glowing recommendation. She indicated that Amanda's abilities as singer and pianist, supplemented by a fine mind and good judgment, destined her for success in the teaching studio as a master teacher. "I feel convinced that she has attained a real insight into the art of singing, and a correct judgment as to the formation and healthy development of the voice. I have therefore no hesitation in recommending her as a Master of singing."12 In time, this prophecy was to prove true for Amanda Aldridge. Lind had been equally enthusiastic about Amanda's work as a student at the Royal College, "I found her during the whole of that time studious, intelligent and attentive, and being musically gifted also."13

Amanda (who continued to bill herself in advertisements as "Miss Ira Aldridge" to dispel any doubt of her connection to her illustrious father) accepted students in "Voice Production and Diction," promising "Pupils prepared for Stage and Concert Careers." Her own studies at the Royal College had included elocution with Dame Madge Kendall, who had acted in Othello with Ira, and Amanda herself was to teach elocution along with singing throughout her career. Notable names from the upper echelon of London society at that time coached their diction with Aldridge-Countess of Dunmore, Lady Helen Nutting, Lady Eileen Wellesley, to mention a few.14 In later years while she was living in Kensington, Amanda billed herself as an "Ex-Scholar of the Royal College of Music, Pupil of the late Madame Jenny Lind, and of Sir George Henschel." These impressive titles no doubt drew students to her studio.

Amanda reportedly attracted many of London's most talented students and enjoyed a long, illustrious teaching career. Edward Scobie provided a description of Amanda's teaching pursuits in an article published in 1952 in the Chicago Defender, entitled "For More Than 100 Years the Aldridge Family Has Ruled London's Music and Theatre Fields." Aged eighty-seven at the time of that article, Amanda apparently still took a forty minute bus ride to Hanover Square in London's West End, where she continued to teach singing and diction for several hours a day. When queried about the possibility of retirement, she retorted, "Life without music would be unbearable. I cannot keep still. So many things are happening that I must be active to see it all."15 Even at an advanced age, Amanda had keen ears coupled with musical intelligence and continued to impart vocal wisdom to her students. As Scobie recounted, ". . . once a great contralto, she confines her singing now to just 'a wee bit' of melody to get over to her pupils the point she wishes them to see."16 (This supports an observation that voice teachers need not necessarily demonstrate for their pupils in order to be effective instructors.) The success of Amanda's teaching was documented in the London Times: "The pupils of Miss Ira Aldridge all, or nearly all, have in common one invaluable attribute of a singer - that is style."17

Most impressive among Amanda's list of accomplished pupils are three prominent African American artists who came to her studio while visiting London. Paul Robeson, Roland Hayes, and Marian Anderson each sought guidance from the distinguished Aldridge. She was inspired by the artistic talents of these esteemed singers and composed specifically for them: "There are a few of the most famous of the coloured race who have spent many months of study with me and at whose request I have composed and dedicated some of my songs."18 Tenor Roland Hayes (1887-1977) and his pianist Laurence Brown met Amanda in London in the early 1920s, and Hayes subsequently included many of her songs in his concerts in England and the Continent. In a letter to Amanda from the States, Hayes mentioned he was building a program of all Negro compositions and requested songs based on African themes from her. On June 5, 1919 he wrote from Boston: "I find your songs so very beautiful. 'The Bride' and 'The Kentucky Love Song' are all gems and I have used 'The Bride' already this week with fine effect. I just love it and shall use it on my programs in the future. All who have heard me sing it have been electrified. I think it will prove to be a tremendously effective song and other people in the states will be using it as well as try to purchase it"19 (Example 1). Hayes had established himself in the United States through a series of concert tours and traveled to London in 1920 to continue studies and to pursue a career abroad. He debuted in April 1920 at Aeolian Hall, followed by more engagements that included a command performance for King George V.20 Regarded as the first African American male concert artist to receive wide international acclaim, Hayes toured Europe several times, singing in several languages, and by the late 1920s had reportedly become the highest paid tenor in the world. While in London, he studied with both Amanda Aldridge and George Henschel. In other letters, Hayes continued to express his gratitude to Amanda for contributing to the success of his recitals: "I shall never forget the deathly silence that greeted the discourse of my singing your song 'Noon.' There was a reverence and attentiveness which none of the other songs had. You have saturated that song with a spiritual power that compels."21



Pianist Laurence Brown had studied in Boston at the New England Conservatory and later in England at Trinity College in composition. As a composer, he is credited with more than four hundred arrangements of Negro folk songs, work and gospel songs, and spirituals.22 Amanda's friendship with Brown continued throughout her life and he was even remembered with a small token in her will.23 Brown had also accompanied acclaimed artist Paul Robeson (1898-1976) in many of his concerts. Robeson was much in demand in both music theater and film musicals and appeared in 1928 in the London production of Showboat.24 During his time in London, Robeson studied with both Amanda Aldridge and her teacher, George Henschel, and it is possible that Amanda may have facilitated professional connections for Robeson, certainly within the London black musical community.


Robeson's first encounter with Amanda may have occurred between 1925 and 1927, during a London visit in which he received many invitations to meet influential people. Robeson's wife, Essie, kept a diary and one particular entry revealed: "Spent the afternoon with Miss Amanda Ira Aldridge-and enjoyed every minute of it. She is the most charming, interesting and lovable woman. She gave us her father's stage earrings that he wore as Othello, and said she hoped Paul would wear them when he played the role."25 Apparently, Amanda had heard Robeson sing on the radio just two days before this meeting and had written to Essie, "How wondrously beautiful Mr. Paul's voice sounded just now. And how absolutely distinct his softest tones in both singing and speaking were. Everyone will be looking eagerly forward to his next broadcasting. It is a most beautiful voice. And altogether his renderings were so artistic!"26 This first meeting led to an interest in Amanda's compositions, as Essie Robeson sent a letter to Amanda (signed in Paul's name) and dated October 19, 1925 asking for a copy of "Summer is de Lovin' Time," which Amanda had played for the Robesons during their visit and with which Robeson was taken.27

Although Robeson's ensuing relationship and the nature and duration of his vocal studies with Amanda are not well documented, Jeffrey C. Stewart does affirm that "Aldridge's daughter, Amanda, taught Robeson diction while he was performing in Othello."28 Letters from Robeson to Aldridge indicate she had helped him prepare songs for his recitals, and he requested a bill for taking lessons from her. He promised to sing on tour in 1926, and record for Victor Records, "Summer is de Lovin' Time." As he expressed to Amanda, "You see we have plenty of spirituals and revival songs, and a few work songs, but almost none of those long Negro love songs which are so charming and typical, and which are so necessary to a program of all Negro music."29 Robeson opened at the Savoy Theatre in London as Othello on May 29, 1930, apparently to much acclaim, receiving some twenty curtain calls. He was recognized as the first black American since Ira Aldridge (almost a century earlier) to play the role. During his later run in Showboat, Robeson continued his correspondence with Amanda. Much later in 1946, a script was in progress for a film about Ira Aldridge's life and Robeson was scheduled to play the great actor. At the time of Amanda's death, included in her possessions was a photo of Paul Robeson, inscribed "To Miss Aldridge-With many thanks for the fresh inspiration received from all reports of her father's greatness. I realize that I can only carry on in the 'tradition of Aldridge.'"30

Amanda Aldridge may well have been a pivotal ally for black musicians visiting London from the United States, who in turn may have brought the full flavor of the thriving Harlem Renaissance to her attention. (Amanda later chose the poetry of Harlem Renaissance poet Paul Laurence Dunbar for "Summer is de Lovin' Time.") Among the major black female concert artists who came under Amanda's influence was the renowned contralto Marian Anderson (1902-1993), reputed to be one of the highest paid concert artists in the United States by 1941.31 Her European concerts during the 1930s brought her to London and into Amanda's circle of musicians, as well as into Amanda's studio for continuing vocal coaching. In describing her first London experiences, in which she mentioned being befriended by the composer Roger Quilter (who had also helped Roland Hayes), Anderson herself recounts, "I should add that I did some voice work with Amanda Ira Aldrich, daughter of Ira Aldrich, the famous actor of Othello fame. She had an excellent reputation as a voice teacher."32 Apparently, her studies with Amanda went against advice that she not work on vocal matters with any teacher, although she certainly coached repertoire with a variety of musicians. Anderson chose to avail herself of the best possible training wherever she performed in Europe and worked with various coaches on specific repertoire. She considered that her London appearances of 1930 represented her "not as an artist of consequence but almost as a student."33 It may be that Amanda assisted Anderson with specific repertoire choices for her first London recitals that, as her pianist Kosti Vehanen recorded, were not overwhelmingly positive. "Despite the fact that each time we made our three trips to London, the sale of tickets increased, Queens Hall, where we later appeared, was never completely sold out . . . Perhaps the English public, which, being conservative, is slow to believe even what it hears."34 Letters from Marian Anderson praised Amanda for her influence: "The things you taught me come in mighty handy just now and all those [people] who have heard, feel that there is a decided improvement."35

One of Amanda's most acclaimed English pupils was the Afro-British contralto Ida Shepley, an active concert singer in the 1940s and 1950s known as "the bronze girl with the golden voice."36 Amanda was seventy-eight years old at the time she was teaching Shepley in 1945, and she wrote to an American friend of her exceptional student, "a little darker than me" and also a contralto.37 Originally from Trinidad, Shepley enjoyed a versatile career in London as actress and singer for BBC broadcasts and television. Amanda's relationship with her pupils was often of a personal nature, possibly because she had no remaining family of her own later in life. She continued to live alone, aside from her two pet birds, "Mr. and Mrs. Browne."38 Her connection with Shepley was close enough that Amanda moved into the upper apartment of a house that Shepley and her husband owned. This new home gave her much comfort; she kept her grand piano in Shepley's drawing room and used Ida's small piano in her upstairs flat. She was also within a short bus ride from Oxford Circus and continued to give lessons at Weeks Studios in Hanover Square. Amanda selected Ida as the eventual recipient for her musical treasures after her death. Among the various dispositions in Amanda's will was her piano and all of her music to "Ida Smith, known professionally as Ida Shepley."39

Ever eager for new experiences, Amanda agreed at the age of eighty-eight to make her first television appearance in a British program entitled Music For You. The show, produced and introduced by Eric Robinson, featured prominent artists in performance with the Music For You Singers and concert orchestra. Amanda (who did not own a television at the time) hoped to accompany performer Muriel Smith, who would sing Montague Ring's "Little Southern Love Song." Smith was then appearing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London. Hailed in The Star (Friday, April 9, 1954) as "one of the oldest artists ever to appear on Television," Amanda was described in the publicity as "still as lively as a cricket".40 The teacher's decline would not actually come for another two years. Following a short illness in the hospital, she died on March 9, 1956, just one day short of her ninetieth birthday.41 Although she left the legacy of her famous heritage, her compositions, and a lifetime of serving the music profession including sixty-five years as a singing teacher, Amanda died poor in terms of financial assets. Her will left but 440 British Pounds Sterling, aside from various personal items and mementos, which were bequeathed to friends.42 Royalties from her compositions as Montague Ring went to the benevolent fund of the Performing Rights Society. At the time of her death, Amanda was considered to be the last surviving pupil of the late Jenny Lind, a poignant attribute mentioned in her obituary.43 Amanda Aldridge is buried at The Streatham Park Cemetery, Rowan Road, London.44


Amanda Aldridge began to compose music when she was in her thirties, about the time her vocal career was waning. That Amanda chose to use the pseudonym Montague Ring for her identity as a composer is understandable. In her own words, she explained, "I adopted the name of 'Montague Ring' so as to keep 'composing' apart from my singing and teaching."45 Although it is only conjecture, Amanda may have wished to distinguish her composing career under her own auspices and not ride on the coattails of her father's success. Certainly the name of Aldridge was well known due to Ira's fame and might have served Amanda well in gaining entrance to the music publishing world. Or perhaps Amanda preferred some distance from her popular compositions, as she had received a more serious musical training in composition at the Royal College, having studied harmony and counterpoint with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone.46 It is less likely that she believed her gender would have been an impediment to the publication of her compositions because many English women composers had been successfully publishing songs by the turn of the century. In any case, letters from her publisher Chappell & Co. indicate her true identity may have been only gradually revealed to them. In October 1913, she was addressed as Miss Montague Ring, but by 1917 was addressed in correspondence as Mrs. Aldridge.47

By Amanda's own account, her mother strongly encouraged her composition pursuits. "She never wearied of trying to induce me to write down the melodies that I sometimes hummed or played. I also feel that my mother influenced the development of the African side of me-by her veneration and pride in the memory of our father Ira Aldridge."48 Amanda's published compositions coupled with her teaching provided income well after her singing career ended in the early 1900s. Income was essential, as Amanda had to support her invalid sister Luranah as well as her aging mother, who was financially devastated from losing Ira Aldridge's fortune.

Under pen name, Amanda Aldridge composed and published at least twenty-six songs, seven suites for pianoforte that were also arranged for orchestra and military band, and other incidental music.49 She enjoyed the notoriety that her composing career brought her: "Fortunately, I have found favour with the public through my efforts in composition."50 Amanda's instrumental music, fashioned in a light style particularly in vogue at the time, received broad currency and was played by leading bands and orchestras everywhere. Her works were recorded, broadcast, and featured in film. Among her best known compositions were Three African Dances (1913), Three Arabian Dances (1919), and Carnival Suite of Five Dances (1924). Her earliest publication was probably in 1906, entitled "Clorinda"-a two-step with ad lib chorus, also arranged for solo cornet and military band. In 1934, "Mirette," a light tango serenade, was her last published work. It is unclear why Amanda ceased composing, or at least seeking publication for her compositions from that time onward, although it is reasonable to assume that the financial constraints of supporting her family made teaching and accompanying more lucrative ventures. Amanda's early years, however, witnessed a considerable outpouring of songs, many of which followed American minstrel and "coon song" traditions.51 Songs of this nature must have been in demand, as Amanda composed several that received popularity: "When the Coloured Lady Saunters Down the Street," "Miss Magnolia Brown," "My Little Corncrake Coon," and "My Dreamy, Creamy Coloured Girl." These songs often included a solo piano part, or dance, following the verses (Example 2).



As well as providing her own lyrics, Amanda promoted the works of various London poets for her early songs. Her literary tastes also led her to American Negro poet Paul Laurence Dunbar in her settings, "Summah is de Lovin' Time" (1925) and "Tis morning" (1925). The published songs often follow the sentimental style of the typical Victorian drawing room ballad and are distinguished by a light-hearted charm, employing a variety of rhythmic and thematic materials. With only a few exceptions, the songs are singable by the amateur and reflect the popular tastes of the early twentieth century and, in some instances, a certain fascination on the public's part for Negro themes. Many of the songs were particularly suited toward music hall and theatrical performances.


Although the majority of Aldridge's songs were marketed to the tastes and musical abilities of the general public, a few did seem to require the skills of more accomplished performers. One such song is "A Song of Spring" (1909), with words by P. J. O'Reilly, whose poems were used in at least six of Aldridge's songs. Prefaced by a rather grandiose piano entrance, the vocal line here clearly requires a voice of greater range with the technique to demonstrate high notes, cadenza-like scale passages, trills, fermatas, and appoggiaturas. A typical song of spring with a text that rapturously praises the beauty of the countryside and its joyous bird calls, this composition is clearly more in the tradition of British composers Liza Lehmann (1862-1918) or Maude Valerie White (1855-1937). It is entirely possible that Aldridge may have known Lehmann, who also studied singing with Jenny Lind and concertized in London at about the same time as Aldridge.52 Lehmann was certainly publishing and performing her own songs in the early 1900s, as was Aldridge. The music of White may also have been familiar to Aldridge; White was studying composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1876 to 1879, shortly before Aldridge entered the Royal College. Much of White's extensive song catalogue was published by Boosey & Hawkes, Chappell and Co., and other firms that also represented Aldridge.53

Aldridge selected poet Eileen Price-Evans for two settings, "Little Rose in My Hair" (1917) and "Love's Golden Day" (1917).54 "Little Rose in My Hair" exemplifies a certain innocent musical approach with an easy vocal line underscored by a modest waltz accompaniment in the piano, either doubling the voice or providing chordal support. Expressing the tender sentiment of a parted lover, the song could easily have been enjoyed by an amateur musician (Example 3). "Love's Golden Day," however, places more demands on both singer and pianist, with a rolling arpeggiated bass line in the piano, a more expansive melodic treatment, and thicker chordal structure requiring more power from the singer. The music for "Love's Golden Day" rises above rather trite lyrics ("the skies are blue, my love is true") to make a heartfelt affirmation of dedicated love; it is a perfect "encore" piece in the collection.


Amanda Aldridge turned to American Tin Pan Alley lyricist Fred G. Bowles for "The Kentucky Love Song" (1912) which Roland Hayes so frequently performed.55 Tin Pan Alley publishers and songwriters flourished in New York City from the late nineteenth century well into the early twentieth century, until sheet music was gradually replaced by the popularity of phonograph and radio. Such early popular musical styles as the cakewalk and ragtime exemplified this genre. Aldridge was no doubt familiar with the trends developing across the ocean; a nod to ragtime can clearly be heard in the piano parts of her early "coon song" pieces.

One of Aldridge's most delightful songs is "Where the Paw Paw Grows" (1907). Featuring a syncopated dance theme, call and response motives, and chorus ad libs throughout, the text references an amusing amalgamation of exotic locales. The poet, Henry E. Downing, alludes to a southern setting with such descriptives as "oleander," "paw-paws," "cottonwood," "passion plants," and even "monsoons" and "palms." Although Aldridge herself never visited the United States, her rich imagination as well as that of her poet may have attributed all this flora to Kentucky (Example 4).


Unfortunately for those seeking access to Aldridge's songs, they have been long out of print and are not currently available in any known anthology or collection. However, most of her published works are housed at the British Public Library in London and selected songs are also available at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College, Chicago. The Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library to 1980 (London, Munich, New York, Paris: K. G. Saur, 1985) lists twenty-six solo songs in the British Library collection dating in publication from 1907 to 1925. These are listed alphabetically by title in the Appendix.

In summary, Amanda Aldridge was a remarkable woman who devoted her lifetime to music, enriching the musical culture of Great Britain through her multitalents as teacher, composer, singer, and pianist. She mentored and inspired many young musicians and became a central figure in the black community in London. For those who are interested in a deeper look at Amanda Aldridge's compositions, much printed music and related resource materials have been donated by prominent scholar and historian Helen Walker-Hill to the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago. Walker-Hill's monograph, Music by Black Women Composers: A Bibliography of Available Scores (Chicago: Columbia College Chicago, Center for Black Music Research, 1995) includes lists of Aldridge's compositions in several genres. The author would especially like to thank Helen Walker-Hill for her inspiration and encouragement on this article.


1. The use of pseudonyms, or pen names, by British composers is not an unusual occurrence. Phillip Heseltine published songs under the pen name of Peter Warlock and Rebecca Clark also used a pseudonym for her early publications.

2. Maude Cuney-Hare, Negro Musicians and Their Music (Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1943), 315.

3. Charles Gounod, letter dated August 15, 1892 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Library, McCormick Library of Special Collections, Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 13).

4. Herbert Marshall and Mildred Stock, Ira Aldridge, the Negro Tragedian (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958), 304.

5. Amanda Aldridge, letter to Mrs. Overton of The Treble Clef Club, no date (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 1).

6. Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997), 120.

7. Amanda Aldridge, will dated April 28, 1955 (Chicago: Columbia College, Center for Black Music Research, Helen Walker-Hill Collection, photocopy).

8. Marshall and Stock, 302.

9. Photo of Amanda Pauline Aldridge (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 4).

10. Scholar's Reports, 1883-1884, Royal College of Music (Helen Walker-Hill Collection, photocopy).

11. Marshall and Stock, 303.

12. Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt, letter dated June 25, 1887 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 5).

13. Ibid.

14. Edward Scobie, Chicago Defender, August 5, 1952 (Helen Walker-Hill Collection, photocopy).

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Hare, 317.

18. Amanda Aldridge, letter to Mrs. Overton.

19. Roland Hayes, letter dated June 5, 1919 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 12).

20. Southern, 410.

21. Roland Hayes, letter dated April 9, 1920 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 12).

22. Sheila Tully Boyle and Andrew Bunie, Paul Robeson: The Years of Promise and Achievement (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 139.

23. Sophie Fuller, The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present (London: Pandora, 1994), 37.

24. Southern, 413.

25. Paul Robeson, Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist's Journey, 1898-1939 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001), 95.

26. Ibid., 95-96.

27. Martin Bauml Duberman, Paul Robeson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 597.

28. Jeffrey C. Stewart, Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998), 246.

29. Paul Robeson letter, dated October 19, 1925 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 16).

30. Marshall and Stock, 2.

31. Southern, 412.

32. Marian Anderson, My Lord, What a Morning (New York: The Viking Press, 1956), 127.

33. Ibid., 129.

34. Kosti Vehanen, Marian Anderson, A Portrait (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1941), 59-60.

35. Marian Anderson, letter dated Ianuary 4, 1929 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 8).

36. Obituary of Amanda Aldridge, The Star, August 27,1956 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 6).

37. Marshall and Stock, 38.

38. Photo of Amanda Aldridge, no date (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 5).

39. Amanda Aldridge, will (Helen Walker-Hill Collection, photocopy).

40. Article, The Star, April 9, 1954 (Helen Walker-Hill Collection, photocopy).

41. Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, March 13, 1956 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 3 File 6).

42. Obituary of Amanda Aldridge, The Star.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Amanda Aldridge, letter to Mrs. Overton.

46. Fuller, 36.

47. Chappell & Co., letters dated October 1913 and 1917 (Ira Aldridge Collection, Box 4 File 7).

48. Amanda Aldridge, letter to Mrs. Overton.

49. Helen Walker-Hill, Music by Black Women Composers: A Bibliography of Available Scores, CBMR Monographs, No. 15 (Chicago: Columbia College, 1995) 8, 33, 39, 44, 45.

50. Amanda Aldridge, letter to Mrs. Overton.

51. "In Search of Coon Songs, Racial Stereotypes in American Popular Song," coonsongs.php (accessed 24 September 2009). A benign definition of coon song found in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music is: "A genre of comic song, popular from around 1880 to the end of World War I, with words in a dialect purporting to be typical of black American speech." That definition, however, obfuscates the repugnance of a historical phenomenon that documents white attitudes and the horribly oppressive climate in which African Americans had to live. At the peak of its popularity, the coon song's ubiquity was not confined to white composers and entertainers; sadly, black American songwriters also produced examples of the demeaning genre [Ed.].

52. Julie Anne Sadie and Rhian Samuel, editors, The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers (New York: The Macmillan Press, 1995), 275-276.

53. Ibid., 493-494.

54. British composer Eric Coates (1886-1957), a contemporary of Aldridge's, also set a poem of Eileen Price-Evans in his "Maid and the Moon" of 1918, published by Chapell Music.

55. Bowles' texts were also set by such distinguished African American musicians as H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949).


Author affiliation:

Joyce Andrews is Professor of Music in Voice at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She combines scholarship with teaching and performing, and her research on women composers of the United Kingdom is published in numerous professional journals. She has received invitations to present lecture recitals across the United States at professional conferences of the College Music Society, Music Teachers National Association, International Alliance of Women in Music, Festival of Women Composers, and NATS. Andrews was awarded a research fellowship at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in 2007 and received a Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2005. Andrews's Spring 2008 sabbatical took her to Scotland to research the vocal music of Scottish composer Sally Beamish and to present a lecture recital on Amanda Aldridge at City University, London. As a soprano soloist, Joyce Andrews has enjoyed a distinguished career in opera, oratorio, concert, and recital work across the United States, England, and France. Praised for her abilities as a singing actress, her professional opera credits include appearances with the New York City Opera, Chautauqua Opera, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Concert Royale and the New York Baroque Dance Company, Eastern Opera Theatre, Madison Opera, Manhattan Savoyards, and Hawaii Opera Theatre, among others. Her compact disk entitled Emily Dickinson Songs, released commercially by Capstone Records in 2003, garnered critical acclaim in Fanfare. "This would be a daunting program for any singer, but Joyce Andrews . . . is the real deal. Andrews has no technical problems whatsoever." Wisconsin audiences have heard Ms. Andrews as soloist with the Madison Symphony, Green Bay Symphony, Manitowoc Symphony, Fox Valley Symphony, Sheboygan Symphony, and the Oshkosh Symphony with whom she performed Barber's masterpiece Knoxville Summer of 1915. Most recently she received rave reviews for her comic role as the coloratura queen from outer space, Zombina, in the UW Oshkosh Theatre and Music production of Zombies from the Beyond.


"An Assyrian Love Song," words by F. G. Bowles. London: Elkin & Co., 1921.

"Azalea," words and music by M. Ring. London: Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, 1907.

"Blue Days of June," words by F. E. Weatherly. London: Chappell & Co., 1915.

"The Bride," words by P. J. O'Reilly. London: Chappell & Co., 1910.

"The Fickle Songster," words by H. Simpson. London: Cary & Co., 1908.

"Little Brown Messenger," words by F. G. Bowles. London: G. Ricordi & Co., 1912.

"Little Missie Cakewalk," words by Talbot Owen; banjo accompaniment by Clifford Essex. London: Lublin & Co., 1908.

"Little Rose in My Hair," words by E. Price-Evans. London: Chappell & Co., 1917.

"Two Little Southern Songs. 1. Kentucky Love song 2. June in Kentucky," words by F. G. Bowles. London: Chappell & Co., 1912.

"Love's Golden Day," words by E. Price-Evans. London: Chappell & Co., 1917.

"Miss Magnolia Brown," words and music by M. Ring. London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1907.

"My Dreamy, Creamy, Coloured Girl," words and music by M. Ring. London: Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, 1907.

"My Little Corncrake Coon," words by Talbot Owen. London: Lublin & Co., 1908.

"Simple Wisdom," words by H. Simpson. London: Lublin & Co., 1908.

"A Song of Spring," words by P. J. O'Reilly. London and New York: Boosey & Co., 1909.

"Summah is de Lovin' Time. A Summer Night," words by P. L. Dunbar. London: Chappell & Co., 1925.

"A Summer Love Song," words by I. R. A. London and New York: Boosey & Co., 1907.

"Supplication," words by P. J. O'Reilly. London: Leonard & Co., 1914.

"Through the Day. Three Songs. 1. Morning 2. Noon 3. Evening," words by P. J. O'Reilly. London and New York: Boosey & Co., 1910.

"'Tis Morning," words by P. L. Dunbar. London: Elkin & Co., 1925.

"When the Coloured Lady Saunters Down the Street," words and music by M. Ring. London: Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, 1907.

"Where the Paw-Paw Grows," words by Henry E. Downing. London: Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, 1907.

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