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Listen to Amanda Aldridge's On Parade as Google honours composer

Alexandra Ciufudean June 17, 2022
Listen to Amanda Aldridge's On Parade as Google honours composer

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Today, 17 June, Google is honouring British opera singer, teacher and composer Amanda Aldridge (1866 – 1956) on the date of her 1911 concert at London’s Queens Small Hall, the original home of the BBC Symphony and London Philharmonic orchestras. Aldridge’s works include popular march On Parade, which is still played by orchestras with gusto today.

Aldridge was the daughter of British Shakespearian actor Ira Aldridge and studied voice and composition at the Royal College of Music in London. After graduating, she began performing as an opera singer, although her concert appearances were cut short by a throat condition.

Afterwards, she focused more on teaching and publishing numerous compositions between 1907 and 1925 under the pseudonym Montague Ring.

Aldridge became a fixture of the romantic parlour genre but also composed in other genres, such as two-step march On Parade.

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Google Doodle celebrating Amanda Aldridge

Who was Amanda Aldridge?

Amanda Ira Aldridge, also known by her musical pseudonym Montague Ring, was born on 10 March 1866 to British actor Ira Aldridge, best known for his interpretation of popular Shakespearian characters, and Amanda von Brandt, a self-styled Swedish countess.

Amanda Aldridge had four siblings – sisters Rachael and Luranah Aldridge and brothers Ira Daniel Aldridge and Ira Frederick. Luranah was an accomplished operatic contralto, who nearly made history as the first black opera singer to star at the Bayeurth Opera House, although she was forced to cancel last-minute due to illness. Amanda’s brother Ira Frederick was an accomplished pianist.

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Ira Aldridge as Othello in oil painting by Léon Herbo
By Stelladuce – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=116237270

Tragically, three of Amanda’s four siblings died young and by 1921 she was taking care of her sister Luranah full-time as her health declined. That year, Aldridge had to turn down an invitation from W.E.B. Du Bois to attend the second Pan-African Congress because of responsibilities to her sister.

A heartbreaking note to Du Bois read: “As you know, my sister is very helpless. I cannot leave for more than a few minutes at a time.”

Aldridge’s career as a composer spread across genres

Aldridge was a prolific composer, publishing about 30 parlour love songs and more music inspired by a range of genres. Her music drew on her black heritage, with songs such as Three African Dances, whose rhythm was influenced by West African drumming.

Screenshot via YouTube

Her romantic parlour compositions combined the rhythms of the beloved genre with poetry by black American authors. Aldridge was also an integral part of London’s British-African society, which resulted in a friendship with composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

“She sang Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s songs and was friends with his daughter Avril,” mezzo-soprano and author Patricia Hammond told Classic FM about Aldridge’s prolific career.

“She taught singing and diction to some of the most legendary African-British, British-Caribbean and African-American figures in music and drama,” Hammond added. These names included American contralto Marian Anderson and Florida singer and composer Lawrence Benjamin Brown.

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Parlour music was about ‘humanity and inclusion’

Aldridge’s preferred genre for many of her compositions was parlour music, a genre popular among British middle-class families in the mid and late 1800s. The main appeal of the songs was something Hammond called their “instant humanity”.

The lyrics wore their heart on their sleeve, with declarations of love, secret crushes and the juicy, messy emotions that come with the human experience. The melodies were accessible, catchy and easy to reproduce by professional and amateur musicians alike.

For the most part, parlour music was a genre that belonged to, as the name indicates, the parlours of middle-class homes, entertaining families and their guests. Eventually, the key to parlour music’s popularity was also the reason for its downfall.

In the 1860s, composer Charlotte Alington Barnard’s song Claribel became so insanely popular music critics were coming up with increasingly creative ways to discredit her in their reviews. The nail in parlour music’s coffin was the assertion: “The ease with which the works could be played and sung at home, as well as their catchiness, caused a degradation of public taste.”

On Parade and more beloved Amanda Aldridge songs

On Parade is an English quick-step march written by Amanda Aldridge in 1914 and still played by orchestras today thanks to its joyful, alert rhythm.

Other popular music Aldridge published under her pseudonym, Montague Ring, includes romantic parlour songs Little Missy Cakewalk, Azalea, and Three Arabian Dances.

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Alexandra is Head of Entertainment at The Focus, managing a growing team of outstanding graduate and experienced writers. She has worked previously as an editor, writer and content specialist across web, video and social platforms and has a bachelor's in English Linguistics and a master's in Comparative Literature.