PAST TREASURES AND NEW DISCOVERIES.
We are fortunate indeed to have artist-scholars who turn their passion for art song perfomance into outstanding research of lesser known composers, and then share their discoveries of hitherto neglected repertoire with the music community. Two of the musician-scholars doing such work today are the subject of this review. Dr. Wanda Brister has been a champion of the songs of British composer Madeleine Dring, and her new nine volume series of anthologies are now available through publisher Classical Vocal Reprints. Dr. Carol Kimball, author of the incomparable Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature, and Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music, and editor of a number of outstanding anthologies for publisher Hal Leonard, is another such contributor to art song research. She has generously contributed her own review to this column, and introduces us to the melodies of composer Theodore Gouvy, research made possible through the research of Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam.
Mezzo soprano Wanda Brister's contribution to the scholarship concerning composer Madeleine Dring is impressive. Dr. Brister has presented at a number of conferences on the topic of Dring's songs, most recently at the 2018 National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference in Las Vegas, and in 2013 at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia. Her article in the May 2008 Journal of Singing (Vol. 64, no. 5) describes her own journey, from enthusiastic performer of the songs she discovered, to a growing scholarly passion for this outstanding and underappreciated composer, and finally to the creation of this outstanding collection.
Following Dring's early upbringing and training, during which she was enthusiastically supported by her parents, she entered and was trained at the Royal College of Music as England was entering the second world war. Her teachers included Herbert Howells, and, on occasion, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob. Her husband, London Philharmonic oboist Roger Lord, continued tirelessly to promote his wife's music after her death. Singers may know of Dring's songs through the previously published sets of individual songs and song sets, for example, "Song of the Nightclub Proprietress" from the Five Betjeman Songs for high voice and piano.
Brister describes the range and tessitura of the majority of Dring's songs as fit for medium high soprano voice (Dring's own voice type), although there are a large number of them appropriate for other voice types, male and female. In the aforementioned Journal of Singing article, she describes the composer's compositional skill as "fast harmonic rhythm, clear text setting, uneven or mixed meters, complex accompaniments that demand quick chromatic reading skills ... The songs sound modern, but never approach atonality or serialism." Her compositional palate is wide and varied, offering many lovely art songs in English, with a large representation of stage music reflecting the milieu of postwar England.
Volume 1 includes Dring's first set of songs, settings of texts by Shakespeare, and other settings of poems by Robert Herrick, Joseph Ellison, and Christina Rossetti. Volumes 2, 4, and 6 include songs with texts written by Dring and others, and probably performed by the composer at an annual musical revue that took place regularly at the Royal College of Music. Volume 3 includes ten art songs previously unpublished (only three of her art songs were published in her lifetime). In Volume 5, the four song settings of poems by Dring's friend Lyndsey Kyme (pseudonym for John Cordeaux) are included, but missing is the fifth song, "Thank you Lord"; it was a bowdlerized version by the publisher of this song that altered and simplified the accompaniment, so much so that Dring, discouraged and insulted, never published another song of any kind. In this same volume, Brister has included some arrangements and three love songs with lyrics by the composer. Volumes 7 and 8 are collections of wonderful ensemble pieces, many created for and performed on the radio and television, and for various stage productions. Volume 9 rounds out the series with more of Dring's lighter fare for solo voice.
The nine volumes are handsomely done, with original art by the composer on the cover of each volume. One helpful inclusion is the ranges of each song in the table of contents for all the volumes. Brister also adds biographic data for the composer in each volume, with interesting information concerning the song offerings in the individual volume for each. Wanda Brister has also recorded Madeleine Dring's solo songs with the Cambria Music label.
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|Title Annotation:||Previously Unpublished Vocal Works, vol. 1-9|
|Publication:||Journal of Singing|
|Article Type:||Sound recording review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2018|
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