[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which
features a comprehensive Works List and a
Bibliography by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com. We are collaborating with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation of the U.K., www.SCTF.org.uk]
May 28, 2014
[Melanie Edwards, granddaughter of J. Rosamond Johnson, discusses JRJ with tenor Rodrick Dixon in October 2012 in Portland, Maine, during filming of "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900-1912." In the background, photos from her grandfather's papers, left: George Walker, vaudeville performer, in a photo signed "Best wishes to friend Johnson from 'Bon Bon Buddies' June 1st 1908"; center: the team of Charlie Hart and JRJ in vaudeville performance getup (ca. 1912); right: JRJ and Charlie Hart in a formal photo. (Hart replaced JRJ's longtime partner Bob Cole after Cole's death in 1911.)]
J. Rosamond Johnson was one of many black American composers influenced by the music and life of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Among others were Scott Joplin, Will Marion Cook, Robert Nathaniel Dett, Harry T. Burleigh and Clarence Cameron White.
I've just released on YouTube a music video outtake from the huge film archive of my documentary film Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900-1912, in which Rodrick Dixon presents a personal and very moving performance of J. Rosamond Johnson's arrangement of the spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I See.
This is the alternate tune to the more familiar version, and it appeared in The Book of American Negro Spirituals, 1925, compiled by J. Rosamond Johnson and his brother, James Weldon Johnson. JRJ writes above the music of Nobody Knows, "Note: This is a rare version," and he dedicates his arrangement to the musicologist Henry Krehbiel.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor had used this melody twenty-six years earlier to provide the thematic basis for his Overture to The Song of Hiawatha (1899).
Rodrick Dixon was born in Queens, where his father is a minister, and he now lives in Chicago. He recently sang as tenor soloist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance of Nathaniel Dett's oratorio, The Ordering of Moses, as part of Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The soloists were "fine singers," according to The New York Times, who as "black artists lent additional poignancy to the occasion." The New Yorker praised the performance, noting that James Conlon "and his Cincinnati forces, augmented by the tenor Rodrick Dixon and the soprano Latonia Moore, conveyed the moment with precision and fervor." My video of Rod Dixon singing Nobody Knows presents a performer of substance with an impeccable ear and the ability to transform written music into powerful emotion.