Monday, September 22, 2008

UK Black History Month Press Release: 'Black Mahler: The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Story'

[African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. 1; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Chicago Sinfonietta; Paul Freeman, conductor; Cedille 90000 055 (2000)]

This press release dated Sept. 21, 2008 has been received from Charles Elford:
October is the UK’s Black History Month and is being celebrated this year with the publication of Black Mahler: The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Story’ written by British charity worker Charles Elford to mark the event. English Coleridge-Taylor, born to a white mother and black father in 1875, was the first person of African descent ever to conduct a white orchestra in America. He was a founding member of the Pan-African Movement and in November 1904 was granted the unprecedented honour of a private audience with President Roosevelt who was deeply concerned about the prejudice suffered by many in the US.

Coleridge-Taylor, a contemporary of Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams, wrote the highly successful choral trilogy ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ whilst still a student at the Royal College of Music. This work made him an international superstar overnight, but he sold the rights to it outright for just 15 guineas (about £15 / $30), so he never reaped the huge financial rewards he deserved. The British Performing Rights Society was established soon after his death to ensure musicians were paid a fair price for their work. Coleridge-Taylor rubbed shoulders with royalty and the popular celebrities of his day but he continuously struggled against poverty, personal tragedy, racial prejudice and overwhelming obstacles. He literally worked himself to death shortly after a very close shave with a certain ‘unsinkable’ trans-Atlantic liner. He died on 1st September 1912 at the age of just 37 but his cheerful and optimistic outlook on life was and is now again, truly inspirational. Charles Elford said, “Although Coleridge-Taylor was a cultural icon to people all over the world, he had a very special place in the hearts of Americans. He continues to be an extremely influential figure internationally, not just musically, and he really doesn’t deserve his current obscurity. Just the fact he was of mixed race in a very white Victorian England makes his story a compelling one for all of us.

Journalist, broadcaster and multi-cultural commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown told us “If it was fiction you wouldn’t believe this stirring story. A mixed race gifted composer, with the most English of names, makes his mark against the odds and yet, like so many other such geniuses, is brought down, too, too soon. All should know the legend that was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Most don’t and that’s the greatest pity of all.” Highly acclaimed international opera director David McVicar said, “Charles Elford has written a lucid and touching account of Coleridge-Taylor's life. A book that deals as much with the social history of Edwardian Britain as it does with music and the art of this unjustly neglected Composer." Charles Elford is developing a screenplay based on his book and he’s not be the only one to believe there’s a Hollywood blockbuster in it; Norman Lebrecht (broadcaster, award-winning novelist and Assistant Editor to the London Evening Standard) said, “It’s an incredibly human story which, in my view, would translate extremely well to film.” For more information, visit [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at

No comments: