By
Montague Ring

Montague Ring wrote Three African Dances as a suite intended for amateur pianists and middle class families. The dances all use melodies with West African origins and folk harmonies like open fifths and flat second scale degrees. The dances are suitable for intermediate pianists, and the cyclic form of the piece can inspire creative storytelling. The first movement, Call To the Feast features an ostinato in the left hand accompanying a slow chant-like melody in the minor mode. The second movement, Luleta's Dance uses a steady waltz pattern and an ornamented melody with quintuplets. The final movement, Dance of the Warriors, integrates the main themes from the first two movements, C into a vigorous rondo that concludes with a thrilling accelerando. Students need to be familiar with a stride style accompaniment to master the fast LH skips and octaves present throughout this movement. 

British composer Amanda Ira Aldridge (1866-1956) composed piano music under the pseudonym Montague Ring, and she came from a remarkable artistic family who broke racial barriers in the arts. Her father, Ira Aldridge, was a notorious Shakesperian actor and the only African-American actor honored at the Shakespeare Memorial Theater, and her sister Luranah sang to great acclaim throughout Europe as one of the first black opera singers. Amanda Aldridge worked as a concert singer, accompanist, and voice teacher after studying at the Royal College of Music in London, and her notable students include Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson. After her singing career was cut short by laryngitis, she turned to composing songs and piano music for middle-class families. The Walker-Hill collection contains several dozen of these works, which were widely published in the early 20th century but now are difficult to find and access.

Sources

Performed by Bryan Chuan.