Thursday, November 12, 2009

Times Union: “Woodstock Chamber to perform Coleridge-Taylor's 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast'"

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Chicago Sinfonietta; Paul Freeman; Cedille 90000 055 (2000)]

“Woodstock Chamber tackles legends
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
First published in print: Thursday, November 12, 2009
For at least two decades now multiculturalism has been a buzzword in the arts, as institutions have sought to present the works of artists of varied heritages and backgrounds. The message has been, in other words, that opportunities should go to others besides just white males. Yet this weekend, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra presents a 100-year-old work which shows that such a focus in the arts is really nothing new. Or at the least, it proves that potent creativity has never known boundaries.

"'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast' is an oratorio on the American folk legend that debuted in London in 1898 and quickly became a sensation, rivaling the popularity of Handel's 'Messiah' and Mendelssohn's 'Elijah.' It was written by 23-year-old Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose father was African and mother was British. 'It was an instant smash hit and a favorite for big extravaganzas where they would have 800 performers,' says David Leighton, music director of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. The oratorio sets verses by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, best known for 'Paul Revere's Ride' ('Listen my children and you shall hear…'). Coleridge-Taylor quickly offered two follow-ups, 'The Death of Minnehaha' in 1899 and 'Hiawatha's Departure' in 1900.

"'Hiawatha' is still performed now and then, and Coleridge-Taylor's entire catalog of works has received a fair amount of attention in recent years, especially through recordings. But Leighton can claim some rightful credit for digging up the score and parts to the oratorio in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and committing his forces to a revival. 'Coleridge-Taylor was a marvelous composer and is still well known in England,' continues Leighton.” “Guest artists are tenor Jeffrey Ambrosini and the Kingston High School Choir. David Leighton conducts. Also on the program is Mahler's "Ruckert Lieder" and Mendelssohn's Overture to "The Fair Melusina." When and where: 8 p.m. Friday, Olin Hall at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; 8 p.m. Saturday, Pointe of Praise Family Life Center, 243 Hurley Ave., Kingston; 3 p.m. Sunday, Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker St., Woodstock. Tickets: $5-$20 available at the door. Info: (845) 246-7045 [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is featured at]

1 comment:

JMW said...

We're all glad to see another performance of Hiawatha. However, the article misstates concerning Coleridge-Taylor's entire catalog receiving attention in recent years. Indeed it is quite the opposite. Though some works like the Violin Concerto, Nonet, Clarinet Quintet and Violin Sonata have been performed numerous times, the majority of his catalog consists of orchestral works and large concert cantatas, almost none of which have been performed in recent times and virtually all of which are waiting for performance and reassessment.

For those interested, scores and parts to the entire Hiawatha trilogy are easy to come by and can be had for cheap from Kalmus or Luck's music.