Doreen Carwithen was born in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire on 15 November 1922. As a child she had her first music lessons from her mother, a music teacher, starting both piano and violin with her at age 4. At age 16 she began composing by setting Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils)" for voice and piano.
In 1941 she entered the Royal Academy of Music and played the cello in a string quartet and with orchestras. She was a member of the harmony class of William Alwyn, who began to teach her composition. Her overture ODTAA (One Damn Thing After Another) was premiered at Covent Garden by Adrian Boult in 1947. The same year she was selected by the Royal Academy to train as composer of film music.
In 1961 she became William Alwyn's second wife, and took Mary Alwyn as her married name, as she disliked the name Doreen, and Mary was her middle name. She later worked as a Sub Professor of Composition at the RAM. She was devoted to her husband and acted as his secretary and amanuensis (these functions commenced before their marriage). After he died in 1985, she founded the William Alwyn Archive and William Alwyn Foundation to promote his music and facilitate related research projects.
Doreen Carwithen wrote scores for over 30 films, including Harvest from the Wilderness (1948), Boys in Brown (1950), Mantrap (1952) (released in the U.S. as Man in Hiding), and East Anglian Holiday (1954). She also scored Elizabeth Is Queen, the official film of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
She composed some orchestral music: an overture ODTAA (One Damn Thing After Another) (1945) (after the novel by John Masefield); a Concerto for piano and strings (1948); the overture Bishop Rock (1952) and a Suffolk Suite (1964). She wrote two award-winning but little-known string quartets.
- London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox, Chandos records 9524
- Sorrel Quartet, Chandos records 9596
- London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox, Chandos records 9196
- Doreen Carwithen at the Internet Movie Database
- Doreen Carwithen biography on Musicweb
- Obituary of Doreen Carwithen by Martin Anderson
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