Sunday, August 14, 2011

Afro-British Composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Born Aug. 15, 1875; 2012 is Centennial of Death

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)]

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, profiled at, was born on August 15, 1875 in the London suburb of Croydon, England. His mother was an Englishwoman and his father was an African physician who returned to his home country of Sierra Leone when he found patients in England would not come to him for treatment. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a leading Pan-Africanist who collaborated extensively with the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Efforts to promote awareness of the life and music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor have intensified in recent months. This is in anticipation of the Centennial of the composer's death in 2012. and AfriClassical Blog have been collaborating with a nonprofit organization based in the U.K., the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, The group's Executive Chair is Hilary Burrage.

It is working with residents of Croydon who have launched a local effort to honor the life and works of Coleridge-Taylor throughout the Centennial Year of 2012. The plans include a world premiere performance of the Coleridge-Taylor opera Thelma, along with other neglected works. AfriClassical has recently posted news of historian Jeffrey Green's new biography, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life. The 256-page hardcover book is from Pickering and Chatto Publishers, and has been released this Summer. The price is £60.00/$99.00.

Sandrine Thomas writes in on May 23, 2010 that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was one of 37 delegates to the first Pan-Africanist Conference in London in 1900: “Thirty-seven delegates attended the conference, among them Samuel Coleridge Taylor, John Alcindor, Dadabhai Naoroji, John Archer and Du Bois, and the focus of a great many speeches delivered were aimed at the governments of world powers to introduce legislation to bring about racial equality.”

Coleridge-Taylor rose to prominence in 1898, the year he turned 23, on the strength of two works. The first was Ballade in A Minor. Next came Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, for which he is best known. It is a setting of verses from Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He conducted its premier to great acclaim. The work was staged hundreds of times in the United Kingdom and North America during the next 15 years.

The composer made three hugely successful tours of North America, in 1904, 1906 and 1910. Britain had no system of royalties, so Coleridge-Taylor was paid only once for each composition, no matter how successful it became. He held multiple teaching and conducting positions in an effort to support his family. This led to exhaustion which worsened the pneumonia from which he died on Sept. 1, 1912, at age 37. The coming year will witness a number of efforts to bring to light some of the many works of Coleridge-Taylor which have fallen into neglect or were never published or performed.

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