Singer and Composer – 1866-1956
Amanda Ira Aldrige was born in Upper Norwood,1866 Her father was Ira Aldridge, a successful African American actor in the Victorian era.
Ira was originally from America and moved to the UK for acting opportunities, he paid for his passage to Liverpool by working as a ship’s steward.
He struggled at the beginning, facing harsh critiques because of his race rather than his ability to act.
Ira was the first Black actor that played Othello in the Royal Cobourg in the prestigious Covent Garden theatre.
Pressure from the newspaper outlets forced the theatre to cancel the rest of his performances.
Ira found success from touring across Europe and was one of the most highly paid actors at the time.
His blue plaque is on 5 Hamlet Road in Upper Norwood.
Unfortunately, Ira didn’t get to know his young daughter Amanda as he died whilst touring Poland in 1867.
Amanda had two older siblings; Irene Luranah Pauline Aldridge who was a gifted singer and was professionally known as Luranah.
Her brother Ira Frederick Olaf Aldridge was known as Fred, he was a musician and composer.
Amanda’s mother was a Swedish woman named Amanda Brandt.
Naturally gifted with the piano, Amanda was encouraged to be a composer from a young age and wrote melodies that she used to hum.
Her first performance was in Crystal Palace in 1881, then in 1883 where she sang at the Royal Albert Hall.
It led to a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in South Kensington where Amanda was taught and mentored by the famous Opera singer Jenny Lind aka ‘The Swedish Nightingale’.
In a beautiful twist of fate, Jenny knew Amanda’s father and told her “You must never drop your father’s name, you must always call yourself Ira. I am proud to have been his friend.”
After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Amanda enjoyed success as a contralto singer.
Her singing career came to an abrupt halt when a bout of laryngitis damaged her throat, however, Amanda continued music by composing.
Going by the pseudonym Montague Ring enabled her to work in the composing world as it was dominated by men.
Amanda published numerous songs such as ‘Love’s Golden Day’ (1917) and ‘Summah is de Lovin’ Time’ (1925).
Amanda’s mother died in their Kensington home in 1915, so it was just Amanda and her sister Luranah who lived there.
Luranah’s singing career was cut short when she became ill with rheumatism and was confined to a wheelchair.
The pain and suffering became too much for her and in 1932 she took her own life.
Amanda became a vocal teacher in Hanover Square.
Her clientele varied from the aristocracy and to actors such as African-American Paul Robeson.
Amanda helped Paul prepare for his role of Othello for his first appearance at the Savoy Theatre.
In 1945, Amanda moved in with Ida and Charles Shepley, because Ida was a former student of Amanda’s and was now a broadcaster at the BBC.
Moving into Chiswick with her grand piano and her belongings and Amanda was thrilled to be a bus ride away from her beloved work studio.
At the age of 88, Amanda was on the BBC show called “Music For You” where singer Muriel Smith performed a Montague Ring song (Amanda’s pseudonym) called “Little Southern Love Song”.
A day shy before her 90th birthday, Amanda died following a short illness. Amanda was buried in Streatham Park Cemetery where she still rests to this day.
Her belongings of photographs, music scores, and newspaper clippings were sent to Northwestern University in Illinois.
Even though she did not know her father, his legacy afforded her a privilege that she in turn was able to extend to others.
Her career is another example of following your purpose, for instance, her gift of music allowed her to play, compose, write, sing and teach.
We at Adeptales, salute you, Amanda Ira Aldridge.
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