Amanda Aldridge

Amanda Aldridge was a British singer, pianist, composer, and teacher. Her father, the celebrated Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge, died when Amanda was a little over a year old, so it was her mother, the Swedish singer Amanda Brandt, who fostered Amanda’s musical talents, as well as those of her two sisters and two brothers. 

Aldridge studied voice at the Royal College of Music with the famed Swedish soprano Jenny Lind and went on to have a successful career a contralto—until a severe case of laryngitis irreparably damaged her throat. She turned tragedy into opportunity, devoting her efforts to teaching a composing, and it is here where she truly made her mark.

She became a sought-after vocal coach who worked with many world-renowned African-American singers, such as the bass-baritone Paul Robeson, the tenor Roland Hayes, and the contralto Marian Anderson; in this way she played a crucial role in supporting the next generation of fellow Black classical musicians. She also established herself as a talented and versatile composer. Her output—published under the name Montague Ring—consists primarily of “parlor music,” piano pieces and songs designed to be performed in living rooms, usually by amateur musicians. Yet her works are hardly simplistic or unsophisticated. They are full of harmonic richness and rhythmic vitality, and they deftly blend classical, popular, and folk styles. Aldridge stopped publishing music around 1925, but she continued to teach well into her later years. At age eighty-seven, when she was still taking a daily 40-minute bus ride into central London to teach her students, she said, ”Life without music would be unbearable. I cannot keep still.”

Aldridge’s music is little-known today (even if Google did celebrate her with a Doodle on June 17, 2022). Her songs are seldom performed, and they have never been collected in a single modern edition. One hopes that performers and scholars will take up the task of championing this composer who has been neglected for far too long.

Additional Resources

Did you know?

Amanda Aldridge never married, in part because she had to look after her elderly mother, who died in 1915, and her sister Luranah, an opera singer who had to end her career when she became bedridden with rheumatism. 

Video Recordings

Mezzo-soprano Patricia Hammond, pianist Andrea Kmecova, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Redman (here playing zither banjo) perform Aldridge's "Azalea," which was published in 1907 under the name Montague Ring.
Mezzo-soprano Patricia Hammond, pianist Andrea Kmecova, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Redman (here playing zither banjo) perform Aldridge's "Little Missie Cakewalk," which was published in 1908 under the name Montague Ring.

Accessing Scores

Aldridge published about thirty songs between 1907 and 1925. Most are available via the British Library and the University of Oxford; others are scattered throughout various U.S. libraries (the University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkeley, for example). The Aldridge Collection at Northwestern University (containing material related to her father) includes several of her scores and manuscripts, as well as photographs, programs, and other materials. Below are scores to nine of her songs.

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