Saturday, September 1, 2012

Centennial of Death of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is Occasion for A Revival of Interest, and Continued Exploration of His Musical Legacy

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)]

The English historian Jeffrey Green has written an authoritative biography, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a Musical Life, published by Pickering & Chatto (2011). It has been the source of several blog posts and substantial website revisions. On the Centennial of the death of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor on Sept. 1, 1912, we excerpt a few additional facts about the composer's passing. Jeffrey Green writes on p. 202:

“Enquiries about the violin concerto coming from Germany and from all over Britain suggested that 1912 was a year of immense promise to the composer, who wrote to Clarence White 'telling of his new works and of what he had accomplished during the past season and how he was looking forward to his early autumn work.'”

“Coleridge-Taylor left his home to go to the Chinese exhibition at Crystal Palace on Wednesday 28 August 1912, but felt unwell at West Croydon railway station. He fell down on the platform and returned home, telling his daughter to ask Jessie to come upstairs. She saw 'a very distressed husband badly needing immediate care and medical attention' so sent for the doctor (who was out) and found a preoccupied replacement (he was to marry the next day). Their regular doctor came on Thursday and found that the composer was delirious. A nurse was employed, allowing Jessie to administer to the children who were also unwell. It was an anxious and preoccupied household at St. Leonard's Road as the last damp days of August passed.”

Chapter 11 Requiem

“Letters and telegrams were sent and received; friends visited; the composer tossed and turned in bed, attended by the nurse.” “The nurse told Jessie to call Dr. Collard again. He returned with a colleague and they sent for a special nurse. The composer, propped up by pillows, conducted an imaginary orchestra. His mother, Jessie, two nurses and 'a West African friend' were all present when a little after six on Sunday evening 1 September 1912 he died from pneumonia.”

On the occasion of the Centennial of the death of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, we are optimistic that his legacy will be fully explored and celebrated anew, as a result of the tireless efforts of many dedicated people, including Jeffrey Green, the biographer; Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation,; Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, the renowned musicologist who has compiled a Works list and Bibliography; the conductor John McLaughlin Williams, who has focused on the sheet music of the composer; and Charles Kaufmann, Artistic Director of The Longfellow Chorus, whose documentary film on the composer in America is to be premiered in 2013.

A number of performances have been organized and presented, including the Annapolis Area Church Choirs in Maryland, which joined in The Atonement of Coleridge-Taylor August 26, 2012. One of the choir directors is James Fitzpatrick, who writes to us, in part:

“I wanted to thank you for your encouragement of our choirs in performing the selections from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s 'The Atonement' on August 26. Thanks to your guidance, we were able to enhance the performance with the addition of some wind instruments. By connecting me with Suzanne Flandreau of the Center for Black Music Research, I was able to finally see the original manuscript of the work via microfilm at University of Pennsylvania. Using the scanner there, I was able to copy the section we were performing and transcribe parts for 8 wind instruments. It added so much to an already powerful work.”

James Fitzpatrick also said of Suzanne Flandreau: "She spent hours searching for the music.  She would provide me one lead after another and finally we had success." 

Suzanne Flandreau, Archivist and Head Librarian, was in the final days of a 22-year career at the CBMR when she characteristically threw herself into the effort to meet the needs of people preparing to perform a work of a Composer of African Descent. We wish her a rewarding retirement, and thank her for more than a decade of successful collaboration with us in the cause of Black Classical Music.

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