Madeleine Dring: Lady Composer

by Professors Wanda Brister & Jay Rosenblatt

Readers of our magazine a few editions back will recall a conversation between myself and Wanda Brister, co-writer of this book on the life and work of Madeleine Dring, who I consider one of the finest composers of light music that not enough people have heard of! The book is the product of several years of work, beginning with an encounter between Brister and the now late Roger Lord, oboist and husband to Madeleine and long continuing as a labour of love. The fact that this is a labour of love shines through even the most academic writing contained in this volume.

The book really does not disappoint: deftly weaving together detailed biographical information about the composer’s family and parentage (most of which was completely unknown to me), with musical analysis, illustrated with passages from various pieces of her music, which gives insight into both her skill and craft and her development as a composer. It is also lavishly illustrated with photographs from Dring’s life, many of which are unavailable elsewhere and itself a treasure trove of insight.

As we might expect, there is considerable tragedy also contained in the pages, as we are reading about a composer who died far too young. The letters between the composer and her friends provide insight into the charm of this remarkable figure, who nonetheless acknowledged the sometimes terrible loneliness of her profession. The final correspondence to a trans-Atlantic pen friend from Roger Lord, as he explains that his beloved wife has died so suddenly is nothing short of heartbreaking.

This is a loving portrait of an artist as well as a rigorous academic insight into a composer deserving of serious study: a fulfilling and insightful book on multiple levels that will appear to anyone interested in the byways of light music as well as to those wishing to make a study. Highly recommended.


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