Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Conducting the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble
Photo courtesy of the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) was an African American Composer and Conductor, and Co-Founder of the Symphony of the New World. He is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a comprehensive Works List and a
Bibliography by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com. Perkinson has been mentioned in several AfriClassical blog posts during the past year.
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma points out that Perkinson was named for the Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: "He was born in New York City, where his mother – already familiar with the music of the Afro-British composer -- was active as pianist, organist, and director of a theater in the Bronx.
Prof. De Lerma writes that Perkinson had an interest in dance and music in his youth: "Prior to his entrance in New York’s High School of Music and Art in 1945, he exhibited an interest in dance, studying with Pearl Primus and Ismay Andrews. Mentored in high school by his teacher Hugh Ross, he came to meet Igor Stravinsky. By the time of his graduation in 1949, when he won the LaGuardia Prize for music, he had begun composing.
Prof. De Lerma tells us that Perkinson's initial college major was Education, but his Bachelor's and Masters degrees were in Music: "He majored in education for two years at New York University (1949-1951), then transferred to the Manhattan School of Music in 1951 (B.M., 1953; M.M., composition, 1954) where he was a composition major under Charles Mills and Vittorio Giannini, and conducting with Jonel Perlea."
The research file of Dominique-René de Lerma reports that some of Perkinson's classmates at the Manhattan School of Music increased his involvement in jazz: "His interest in jazz was stimulated while enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music in association with classmates Julius Watkins, Herbie Mann, Donald Byrd, and Max Roach. He has been engaged as arranger and/or music director for Marvin Gaye, Lou Rawls, Barbara McNair, Donald Byrd, Max Roach (as pianist in the Roach Quartet, 1964-1965), Melvin Van Peebles, and Harry Belafonte. Arrangements he made for Hamiet Bluiett appear on the CD, Bluiett blueback, Justin Time JUST 158-2."
"His ballet scores include works for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, and the Eleo Pomare Dance Company. He has composed and conducted scores for numerous award-winning theatrical, television, and documentary films such as Montgomery to Memphis (Martin Luther King), Bearden on Bearden (Romare Bearden), A Woman Called Moses (Cicely Tyson), and A Warm December (Sidney Poitier) and has arranged for jazz and popular artists including Harry Belefonte and Marvin Gaye. He conducted orchestras all over the world and served as music director or composer-in-residence for the Negro Ensemble Company, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem and various theatre groups."
In 1954, Perkinson attended a Summer course in conducting at the Berkshire Music Center, Prof. De Lerma writes. The website of Leonarda Records, www.leonarda.com, includes an overview of Perkinson's musical scores for stage, film and television: "Perkinson also wrote the themes for the television shows Room 222 and Get Christie Love!"
Perkinson co-founded the Symphony of the New World, which he conducted from 1965-70 and directed for the 1972 season. From 1998 until his death in Chicago on March 9, 2004, Perkinson was affiliated with the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago.
In the year following the death of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, a wide-ranging overview of his music was issued on Coleridge- Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration, Cedille 90000 087 (2005). Paul Freeman conducts the Chicago Sinfonietta. The works include Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings (15:17); Grass: Poem for Piano, Strings & Percussion (16:08), Joseph Joubert, piano; Quartet No. 1 based on “Calvary” (Negro spiritual) (17:04), New Black Music Repertory Ensemble Quartet; Blue/s Forms for Solo Violin (7:26), Sanford Allen, violin; Lamentations: Black/Folk Song Suite for Solo Cello (15:38), Tahira Whittington, cello; Louisiana Blues Strut (A Cakewalk) (2:49), Ashley Horne, violin; and Movement for String Trio (3:56), Sanford Allen, violin; Jesse Levine, viola; Carter Brey, cello. The compositions are in chronological order, beginning with a work written in 1954-55 and ending with one produced in 2004.