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Madeleine Dring

1923 - 1977

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Madeleine Winefride Isabelle Dring (7 September 1923 – 26 March 1977) was an English composer, pianist, singer and actress.

Madeleine Dring spent the first four years of her life at Raleigh Road, Harringay, before the family moved to Streatham. She showed talent at an early age and was accepted into the junior department of the Royal College of Music where she began on her tenth birthday. She was offered scholarships for violin and piano and chose violin. She studied piano as a secondary instrument, with RCM students guiding her studies for the first several years.

As part of their training, all of the students performed in the children's theatre under the guidance of Angela Bull. Dring formally began composition studies at the junior department with Stanley Drummond Wolff in 1937, in 1938 with Leslie Fly, and the next two years worked with Sir Percy Buck. Near the end of her studies she was assigned Lilian Gaskell for piano studies. She continued at the Royal College for senior-level studies where her composition teacher was Herbert Howells. She had occasional lessons with Ralph Vaughan Williams (officially, a substitute for Howells). She dropped the study of violin after the death of her instructor, W.H. Reed, at the end of the first year. She focused on piano and composition but also studied mime, drama, and singing. Dring's love of theatre and music co-mingled happily; many of her earliest professional creations were for the stage, radio, and television.

Dring's favourite composer in her youth was Rachmaninov and she owned much piano and vocal sheet music by Rachmaninov, which is now in the possession of Ro Hancock-Child. Dring studied with Herbert Howells but her own work shows no debt to his musical style. Occasionally she was taught by Ralph Vaughan Williams but again there is little obvious influence, and her music does not reflect the English folk song tradition, although she studied this genre as a singer. She sometimes set a text she had encountered in a solo or choral work, leaving her mark on it. She looked further afield.

Dring particularly enjoyed (and imitated) the mannerisms of Poulenc, for instance in the accompaniment to her song I Feed A Flame. As observed by Ro Hancock-Child, Dring preferred jazzy idioms, Gershwin, Cole Porter and the sunny style of Arthur Benjamin. Having heard the calypso in London, she responded with her own Caribbean Dance and West Indian Dance, for piano.

Dring deliberately did not repeat her musical material from piece to piece, always finding a fresh approach to harmony and rhythm. If her vocal music has ever been compared to Roger Quilter (possibly because of similar text choices) it is a mistaken comparison. Quilter was solidly Victorian in outlook, and his songs are deeply melodic and contrapuntal. By contrast, Dring looked to the future, and thrived on novelty and surprise, hoping that what she wrote might gently shock or make you smile. Her vocal melodies arise from the underlying harmonies and can be difficult to pitch: the chords come first, as Ro Hancock-Child observes. Dring wrote most of her songs for her own use: she had a high quality soprano voice with a wide range, and perfect pitch. Several informal and informative recordings exist of Dring singing and playing her own compositions.

Dring's cabaret songs and West End Revue material sometimes featured her own lyrics and are full of clever writing, both musically and textually. They have recently been recorded and published by several dedicated artists.

Dring chose not to compose large-scale works, therefore most of her output was in shorter forms. She wrote pieces for solo piano, piano duets, songs with piano, and some chamber music, including pieces for piano duo, flute, oboe, harmonica, recorder, and clarinet, a small number of which are pedagogical works. Her works for television and radio are all within a 45-minute time frame or shorter. She completed a one-act opera, Cupboard Love with her friend D.F. Aitken (never performed during her lifetime, but it was published in 2017 and received its stage premiere in the United States in April 2018 at Florida State University and its European premiere in Scotland in June 2019). A dance drama entitled The Fair Queen of Wu which was broadcast on BBC Television in 1951. The ballet called for a full company of soloists who were off camera. She was commissioned to write music for "The Real Princess," a ballet and for several stage plays in London from 1946 to 1971. She often collaborated with Felicity Gray, choreographer, and D.F. Aitken, librettist.

Biography taken from Wikipedia.

Italian Dance | 1960 | 2.5 mins

Oboe and Piano

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Trio for Flute, Oboe, Piano | 1968

Flute, Oboe, Piano

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