Monday, September 10, 2012 'Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the African-British composer who brought a Minnesota Ojibwe legend to the Royal Albert Hall'

[Image via Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation,]

Twin Cities Daily Planet
September 09, 2012
The current issue of BBC Music Magazine features an article about the wild success, between the World Wars, of an annual Royal Albert Hall production of three cantatas about the Ojibwe legend of Hiawatha. The cantatas were based on The Song of Hiawatha, the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem that had in turn been inspired in part by a photograph of Minnehaha Falls in what is now Minneapolis.

"As simply Hiawatha," writes Andrew Green, the cantatas "pulled packed houses for two-week seasons...and made the name of the young conductor, Dr. Malcolm Sargent. 

Adding an interesting dimension to the story of the British Hiawatha is the fact that its composer was a black man: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who died of pneumonia 100 years ago this year at the age of 37. Born to an English woman and a Sierra Leonean Creole man who went back to Africa not knowing he was leaving a son, Coleridge-Taylor was named in tribute to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Coleridge-Taylor was so enamored of the Hiawatha legend that he named his son Hiawatha Coleridge-Taylor.
On his gravestone is inscribed a quotation from one of the Hiawatha cantatas:

Too young to die
his great simplicity
his happy courage
in an alien world
his gentleness
made all that knew him
love him.

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, We are collaborating with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation of the U.K.,]

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