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BOOK REVIEWS

Madeleine Dring

Her Music, Her Life

Ro Hancock-Child

Micropress Music, p/b £10.99

Madeleine Dring - Her Music, Her Life

The bee in her bonnet never stopped buzzing, says Ro Hancock-Child of Madeleine Dring (1923-1977). From the age of nine, Dring studied at the Royal College of Music (RCM). Her composition teachers included Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and Gordon Jacob. Despite her precocious talent and privileged education, Dring remained full of a sense of fun and mischief. Though clearly a musician who was grounded by much common sense, she was a lawlessness unto herself, says Hancock-Child.

In 1947 Dring married Roger Lord, the oboist who was later to play in the LSO. For Lord, Dring composed several works, including her Dances for solo oboe. Dring admired the music of Francis Poulenc, whose influence can be clearly heard in her Trio for flute, oboe and piano of 1968, premiered in the USA by André Previn, Peter Lloyd and Lord, and still performed today. Dring is also remembered for the fistful of piano, flute or voice pieces that remain in the graded examination lists.

In spirit, Dring was not of her own era. She felt that the 60s and 70s were a time of irresponsible chaos, and that warmth and tenderness were lacking in contemporary arts. Indeed, Hancock-Child calls her an old soul.

Dring had wise words concerning the process of musical composition, feeling that the best way to compose was not by effort and concentration but by not trying - in effect, letting go. She felt that her pieces came to her, and advised composers to abandon the feelings of I am in order to make the birth of a composition possible.

Ro Hancock-Child, herself a professional pianist, artist, composer and author and, like Dring, blessed with the curse of perfect pitch, has written an affectionate and approving account of an extraordinary and all-too-short life.

John Robert Brown

First published in Classical Music, 24th October 2009. Used by permission, reproduction forbidden.

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