Anna Carol Dudley (1931–2021)

Anna Carol performing in one of her beloved spaces, First Congregational Church of Berkeley.

We at SFEMS are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Anna Carol Dudley on Thursday, May 27. Anna Carol enjoyed a distinguished career as a musician, teacher, administrator, and as a passionate advocate for early music and historically informed performance practices.

Born Anna Carol Kingdon in 1931, she graduated from Oberlin College and went to India on an Oberlin fellowship, where she taught English and studied South Indian music for two years before returning to Oberlin to receive her Master’s degree in vocal performance at the Conservatory of Music. Returning later to India, she toured for the United States Information Service in India, Afghanistan and Ceylon, singing American music.

After returning to the United States with her husband, Richard (Dick) Dudley, the couple moved to Berkeley, where Anna Carol quickly became involved in the beginning of the early music revival, singing Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music with Donald Pippin at the Old Spaghetti Factory and being trained in early music by scholars at Berkeley and Stanford, all while raising three sons. She sang as a recitalist and as a soloist with the major early music groups in the West Coast area and beyond (including the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale), and was soon asked to join a group then named the Elizabethan Trio (renamed Tapestry upon her arrival) with soprano Judith Nelson, actress and poet Rella Lossy, and Laurette Goldberg. It was Goldberg who later asked her to take the helm of SFEMS’ early music workshop, a position she held for many years.

In addition to her involvement in early music, Anna Carol worked with contemporary music ensembles as well, including the Kronos Quartet, Earplay, Composers Inc., Sounds New, and The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. She gave premieres to many 20th and 21st-century works, including a number written specifically for her. Her operatic roles included the title roles in Handel’s Semele and Susanna, Constanza in The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Vivian Fine’s Women in the Garden.

As a teacher and administrator, Anna Carol directed operas at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was on the faculty of San Francisco State University for 18 years, and, after her retirement from SFSU, was on the faculty of UC Berkeley. She also served as president of the San Francisco Early Music Society, Director Emerita of the society’s annual Baroque Music and Dance workshop, president of San Francisco Bay chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), and director of the Junior Bach Festival Association. For more than eight years she reviewed concerts and opera for the San Francisco Classical Voice website, with a generous, yet discerning, ear.

Anna Carol Dudley had a profound effect on the Bay Area’s musical landscape, and will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family and to all who knew her.

To recognize her many contributions to our community, her family requests that donations be made to SFEMS, in her memory, to the Anna Carol Dudley Memorial Fund.

We will also be gathering remembrances to share. Please post them here, or send to communications manager Heidi Waterman at communications@sfems.org.

Written by Derek Tam