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Music : Doreen Carwithen Archive. Elizabeth is Queen

Carwithen, Doreen, 1922-2003


<p style='text-align: justify;'>As well as composing for feature films, Doreen composed a number of documentary film scores. She was perhaps proudest of her work on <i>Elizabeth is Queen</i>, the Pathe film of the coronation of Elizabeth II, which beat Pathe’s rival Gaumont’s own coronation film to the screens of London.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Although the film’s titles state that the music was arranged and conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, much of the original music was by Doreen, who also arranged music by Edward Elgar and Thomas Dunhill, as well as adding bridging passages between sections for the underscore. Elizabeth is Queen may be viewed on British Pathe’s website.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The partial score seen here (the rest is believed lost) features Doreen’s opening titles, a segue into Walton’s Crown Imperial, an earlier sketch of the opening titles, and her music for the London scenes of the first reel.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The archive of the composer, William Alwyn (1905-1985), was deposited at Cambridge University Library in 2003, following the death of his widow, Mary Alwyn (1922-2003), better known as the composer, Doreen Carwithen. Included within this archive, as a discrete entity was Doreen’s own archive consisting of her scores, some sketches, photographs, correspondence, a handful of early diaries, and ephemera. Although not as extensive as her husband’s, Doreen’s archive provides a snapshot of a life that was perhaps not lived as fully as it could have been.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Doreen was born in Haddenham, Bucks., and came from a musically talented family. She first met William Alwyn at the Royal Academy of Music in 1941 when an accident led to Doreen studying initially harmony and then composition under the well known composer. Alwyn had initially won praise for his art music, but by the 1940s film music played a more important part in his life, though this was to become a cause of friction in his later career. Doreen was a talented cellist and pianist, and Alwyn was the first to recognise her potential as a composer. On graduating from the Royal Academy, Doreen became the first person to win a J. Arthur Rank Film Music scholarship, and spent much of her time at the Rank studios writing film scores, and orchestrating, editing and completing scores by others, including such important names as Sir Arthur Bliss and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Alongside this her career as an art music composer flourished. Her success led to a mass of press appearances, most of which played on the theme that Doreen was superbly talented musically, which was all the more surprising as she was a pretty young girl.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The relationship between Alwyn and Doreen had moved beyond that of teacher and pupil by the time she left the Royal Academy. The two continued as lovers with both feeling increasingly trapped by the direction that their careers and personal lives were taking. The careers of both had stalled as musical tastes changed, Alwyn was increasingly unhappy in his marriage, while Doreen became more lonely.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In 1961, they eloped to Blythburgh on the Suffolk coast, and spent the rest of their lives together there. Doreen changed her name by deed poll to Mary Alwyn (it was to be another ten years before they married) and became William’s amanuensis and champion. She fought tirelessly to promote his work and was instrumental in the formation of the William Alwyn Foundation following his death.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Her own work was largely forgotten, it was only towards the end of her life, that those who enjoyed William’s music discovered that his wife had also been a talented composer, and gradually through the work of the Foundation following Doreen’s own death, her music was re-discovered.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>With thanks to the William Alwyn Foundation for permission to reproduce this material.</p>

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