Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jessica Duchen: 'SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR died on 1 September 1912, aged 37'

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's short life ended exactly a century ago today. Half British, half African (his father was a doctor from Sierra Leone), he grew up in Croydon - and died there too, of pneumonia exacerbated by overwork and exhaustion. Having had no notion of how popular his oratorio Hiawatha would become, he'd accepted a small flat fee for its publication and saw no financial benefit from its hundreds of performances. His story helped to inspire the creation of the PRS - but for him it was too late.

Had he lived, and emigrated to America, he might have become the international star he deserved to be - though there he was celebrated enough to be dubbed 'the black Mahler'. As things are, his fans still struggle to keep his memory alive.


NB [UPDATE]: I fear some readers have been confusing Samuel Coleridge-Taylor with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. While his parents may have named the British-African composer in honour of his eminent forerunner, this has nevertheless been a problem for a long time. So, just to clarify:

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE: 1772-1834. English poet, critic and philosopher, author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, amongst much else. (Fact: he attended, uh, Jesus College Cambridge, where he appears to have had a nervous breakdown.) 

SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: 1875-1912. British-African composer, counting the cantata Hiawatha among his greatest achievements...see above... This one is our anniversary man today.

Now, ANOTHER UPDATE, Sunday 2 Sept, lunchtime: Hilary Burrage has more about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in The Huffington Post (thanks for alerting us to this in the Comments, Hilary!). Read it here.

Last but by no means least, here's an extract from a US documentary in the making, apparently due out next March.

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