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Music : Doreen Carwithen Archive. ODTAA

Carwithen, Doreen, 1922-2003


<p style='text-align: justify;'><i>ODTAA</i>, (i.e. One Damn Thing After Another), Doreen’s orchestral overture, composed 1945-1946, and inspired by John Masefield’s novel, was the first new score to be selected by the London Philharmonic Orchestra Music Advisory Committee. It was given its official premiere in March 1947 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, under the baton of Adrian Boult, with whom Doreen would also work on <i>Elizabeth is Queen</i>, having been warmly received at an earlier performance at Watford Town Hall. The critical reception was good and her success was widely followed by the press, who were most impressed that a pretty young girl (she was just 24) could also be a successful composer.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The score photographed here is the one that would have been used throughout those early performances. It is in the composer’s own hand, but also features performance markings including almost certainly Sir Adrian Boult, and George Weldon, who conducted the Birmingham premiere in 1948. The post-it note is Doreen’s own response to the performance markings, relating to another copy of the manuscript and gives a flavour of her sometimes acerbic character. The stamps on the cover and title-page reflect the manuscript’s history.</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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