Sunday, May 12, 2013 'Hilary Burrage...of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor she came to regard and preserve his work'

Image Courtesy of the Royal College of Music 

Live-A-Music: Andrew Berridge (violin), Tony Burrage (violin/Director), Joanna Lacey (viola), Michael Parratt (cello), John Pearce (piano) 

rec live Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 7 Nov 2001 
Special Limited Edition First Recording 
LIVE-A-MUSIC 2001 [56.41]

AfriClassical is pleased to present brief excerpts from a remarkable first-person account by Hilary Burrage of her experiences related to the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  They include the discovery by herself and her husband Anthony "Tony" Burrage of the original score of the Piano Quintet, Op. 1.  The article notes that Tony and fellow members of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed the work 108 years after the original performance.  Pictured above is a "Special Limited Edition First Recording" called Live-A-Music: A Tribute to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor 

In the article below Hilary Burrage, Executive Chair of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation, a United Kingdom (UK)-based non-profit organisation, describes the composer and how she came to regard and preserve his work and legacy.

It has taken three times the duration of his own lifetime for the reputation of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Britain’s greatest black classical composer, to begin to make an impact on our contemporary world.  At the time of his tragically early death in 1912, aged 37 from a chest infection, Coleridge-Taylor was a nationally feted musical figure.  His Hiawatha Trilogy of staged opera-cantatas based on the poem by Longfellow were massive commercial successes even though he gained almost nothing from them financially.

 Nor do we yet know much about Coleridge-Taylor’s impressively large musical output, though we are beginning to learn. It was this search for his music that led me again to Coleridge-Taylor some quarter century after my schoolgirl encounter.  My husband, Martin Anthony [‘Tony’] Burrage, a violinist in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and I were deeply concerned when our city became mired in the aftermath of the ‘Toxteth riots’ in the 1980s.  Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall is just a few minutes away from the grim events of that time, and we wanted very much to find a bridge between the music which flowed from The Phil, and the sobering experience of our near community-based neighbours.

It was then that Tony, who had studied the Elgar Violin Concerto at the Royal Academy of Music in London, recalled that a younger composer whom Sir Edward Elgar had supported was of mixed race.  That composer was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  So began our effort to track down his music, no easy task in the 1980s and 1990s, before the Internet.  The search was also made more difficult not only because no Trust or Foundation was established on Coleridge-Taylor’s death, but also because some scores and artefacts had been distributed without much by way of record.

Nonetheless, we persevered, eventually locating the published Fantasiestücke Op.5 and, to our astonishment, discovering the original hand-written score of the Op.1 Piano Quintet in archive at the Royal College of Music.  From this Tony prepared part-scores, then set a formal recital date.  Eventually on November 7, 2001 the Quintet, and the Op.5, were performed by him and RLPO colleagues in the Liverpool Philharmonic, 108 years after the original, possibly only, public concert, by Coleridge-Taylor and his fellow students at the RCM, in 1893. 

[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.,]

Comment by email:

Thank you in turn Bill, for introducing me to Quintard! I enjoyed writing the piece – it certainly brought back memories from many years ago.  Very best wishes to you both, Hilary  [Hilary Burrage]

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