Anna Carol Dudley
Anna Carol Dudley

Anna Carol Dudley, a long-time fixture on the Bay Area music scene as a soprano and teacher in early-music and contemporary music, died this past May 27. She was 90 years old. Some readers will remember her as one of San Francisco Classical Voice’s sharpest, and broadly knowledgeable critics; she wrote reviews for this journal for more than 15 years.

According to the family’s obituary, Dudley “was born on the island of Maui in 1931, where her father, Robert Kingdon, was a pastor in the Congregational church in Kahului. In 1940 the family moved to Wisconsin Rapids, WI, where Anna Carol grew up in the parsonage of her father’s new church.” She was graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in history and immediately took a fellowship to teach at an elementary school in Madurai, India. While there, she studied Karnatic music and also deepened a relationship with her future husband, Richard Dudley, who had grown up in India as the son of missionaries.

From the family obituary: “Upon leaving India in 1954 Anna Carol and Dick travelled overland through the Near East and Turkey, bought bicycles in Switzerland, and cycled through Europe before crossing the Atlantic by ship. Dick was drafted into the army when they returned, while Anna Carol enrolled at the Oberlin Conservatory to study vocal performance with Marion Sims and complete a master’s degree in music history. Her 1956 MA thesis was titled Raga: The Concept of Melody in the Music of India.”

Anna Carol Dudley | Courtesy of Shannon Dudley

She was one of an increasing number of musicians from the time who were broadening their understanding of music by studying the Indian traditions. Asian influence on Western musics accelerated hugely in the 1960s and you can see that influence in a review Dudley wrote of a concert by Jordi Savall with a program based on Dimitrie Cantemir’s The Book of the Science of Music, published in Istanbul in the early 18th century:

While Cantemir was writing his book, J.S. Bach was writing the Well-Tempered Clavier. Turkey was staying with a kind of melodic variety which Europeans ceased to care for, and Europe, dividing the octave arbitrarily into half-steps, was continuing the development of harmony and extending the range of scales up and down by compromising tuning with equal temperament. What the West gave up was the musical and emotional impact of enormous melodic variety and rhythmic complexity. What the East didn't go for was the musical and emotional impact of harmony.”

While Richard Dudley pursued a political science degree at UC Berkeley in 1957, Anna Carol became familiar with the local music scene. “She performed early music with harpsichordist Donald Pippin at the Old Spaghetti Factory in San Francisco, sang with the Berkeley Chamber Singers, and participated regularly in the Cabrillo Music Festival.”

Anna Carol Dudley
Anna Carol Dudley

After another two-year stint in India in 1969–1971, the couple returned to Berkeley, where Anna Carol expanded her musical activities. The obituary notes that “she sang with groups such as Earplay, Composers Inc., Kronos Quartet, Mills College Performing Group, Sounds New, San Francisco Contemporary Players, and premiered the works of many composers. She made records of songs by Charles Seeger, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Henry Purcell with the 1750 Arch label in Berkeley. Her early music work also continued during these years, as a soloist with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and notably with Tapestry (originally the Elizabethan Trio), a group that included Lorette Goldberg, Judy Nelson, and Rella Lossy.

“Anna Carol taught voice at San Francisco State University from 1976 to 1994, and also for some years at UC Berkeley and Stanislaus State. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she directed the San Francisco Early Music Society’s Baroque Music and Dance workshops in the summer and was SFEMS president from 1981 to 1982. She took leadership roles in other Bay Area arts organizations, including the Junior Bach Festival and Earplay.”

“A memorial service will be held Saturday June 26th at 10 a.m., at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, in Berkeley, CA. Pending new state COVID guidelines, we expect attendees to wear masks, and for singing to be limited to performers and choir. The church is large and well-ventilated and every other pew will be left empty.

“In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Anna Carol Dudley Memorial Fund at the San Francisco Early Music Society. If you’d like to contribute, you can mail a check to SFEMS at PO Box 10151, Berkeley, CA 94709 (noting the memorial fund in the memo line) or use a credit card at”

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