Why a Google Doodle is celebrating British opera singer Amanda Aldridge today
On this day in 1911, Aldridge gave a piano recital at London’s pre-war principal concert venue, Queens Small Hall, the original home of the BBC Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestras.
Here’s what you need to know about her.
Aldridge was an Afro-British opera singer and teacher, who composed under the pseudonym Montague Ring.
She was born in London on 10 March 1866 to African-American actor Ira Frederick Aldridge, who performed in Shakespeare plays, and his second wife, Amanda Brandt, from Sweden.
One of her sisters was the operatic contralto Luranah Aldridge, who nearly became the first performer of African heritage to perform at Bayreuth Opera House. However, she was forced to pull out due to illness.
When she grew up Aldridge went on to study voice under Jenny Lind and George Henschel at the Royal College of Music, before pursuing a career as a vocalist at London’s Royal Conservatory of Music.
Her career was curtailed by a throat injury caused by laryngitis, but she was able to make her name as a teacher, piano player and composer.
Lyric tenor Roland Hayes and composer Lawrence Benjamin Brown were among her notable students.
What is Amanda Aldridge best known for?
Aldridge released over 30 songs and dozens of instrumental tracks under her pseudonym.
She combined various rhythmic influences and genres with poetry from black American authors to create romantic parlour music, a genre popular with the middle class at the time.
Parlour music was sheet music played at home with a piano, accompanied by vocals. Its popularity was due to record players not yet being widely available.
Many of her songs explored her African-American heritage – something she was keen to pass down to her students of similar descent.
Aldridge’s 1913 piano composition “Three African Dances”, inspired by West African drumming, is her most famous piece.
She appeared on British television for the first time at the age of 88, on the show Music for You. American singer Muriel Smith performed her song, “Little Southern Love Song”.