Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Afro-British Composer and Conductor Born Aug. 15, 1875; 17 Days to Centennial of His Death

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)]

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the prominent Afro-British composer, conductor and professor of Music profiled at, was born on August 15, 1875 in Holborn, London, 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 the past year because of the Centennial of the composer's death, just 17 days from now, Sept. 1, 2012. and AfriClassical Blog have been collaborating extensively with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation,, a nonprofit organization registered in the United Kingdom.  The group's Executive Chair is Hilary Burrage.

This year Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,, has completed a comprehensive Works list and Bibliography for Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. He has made it available to the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation and, both of which have made the reference source available online.

Residents of Croydon, where the composer was raised, have launched a local effort to honor the life and works of Coleridge-Taylor throughout the Centennial Year of 2012. has been updated to include findings on the early life of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor from Jeffrey Green's 2011 biography, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life. The 256-page hardcover book is from Pickering and Chatto Publishers. It has been highly praised in a review by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, principal advisor to

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. Charles Kaufmann and The Longfellow Chorus of Portland, Maine are filming a documentary to be released in 2013, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his music in America. Filming is about two-thirds complete, according to Charles Kaufmann, Artistic Director. A project on is currently accepting pledges, with a goal of $15,000, to help finance production.

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. This year has seen 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. One of the highlights has been the premiere production of the composer's opera Thelma, in Croydon.

The National Portrait Gallery of the United Kingdom is currently displaying images from the life of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, including the painting done when he was about seven years old, and the photograph above. 

No comments: