Saturday, August 15, 2015

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born August 15, 1875; Hilary Burrage writes of his "concern for fairness and decency" & his role in the Pan-African Conference of 1900

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

On August 30, 2012 AfriClassical posted:

Having collaborated with Hilary Burrage for the prior year, AfriClassical was pleased to present her commemoration of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), as it appeared on, in honor of the Centennial of his death on September 1, 1912. 

Today we repost a brief excerpt which remains relevant to our time, focusing on Coleridge-Taylor's dedication to fairness and equality, as illustrated in his participation in the original Pan-African Conference in 1900:

 As we demonstrate on the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation website - where a full list of works and recordings, generously donated by Dr Dominique Rene de Lerma, may be found - there is beyond Hiawatha some significant early chamber music, a whole range of vocal scores (some of them substantial) and even a violin concerto and some full symphonic works: impressive by any standards as the output for someone still in his thirties when he died.

But there are also other aspects of the life of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor which make him special and deserve much greater acknowledgement.

Born in London in 1875, illegitimate and of mixed race, the boy Samuel took courage to make the most of every opportunity to take his formidable talents forward. His complex extended family supported him as best they could and by his early teens Coleridge-Taylor's musical gifts were recognised by others too. He gained sponsorship to attend the newly-established Royal College of Music aged only 17, and, produced his first few opus-listed works the following year. (How withering to repute is time; received to acclaim when initially presented, we discovered Coleridge-Taylor's Opus 1 Piano Quintet, probably unperformed since 1895, buried deep in the RCM archive a full century later.)

But to return to the chronology. Just before the end of Victoria's reign, Coleridge-Taylor's concern for fairness and decency led him to engage in the increasingly urgent calls for racial equality. Whilst Victorian London was more varied of skin colour than some imagine, Coleridge-Taylor nonetheless knew at first hand both of discrimination by 'race', and of the shared objective by others of a more even playing field for all; and he had by then formed a friendship with the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who became a major influence on the composer's thinking. Hence also Coleridge-Taylor's involvement in the Pan-African Conference of 1900, held in Westminster Town Hall, London from July 23rd to the 25th, and timed to take place just before the Paris Exposition in order to allow tourists of African descent to attend both events, and focused on persuading world power governments to introduce legislation to abolish racial discrimination.

It was also at the Pan-African Conference of 1900 that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (and his friend John Archer of Liverpool, who became the first black Mayor of Battersea) met the writer W.E.B. DuBois, who was during the next few years to prove a great influence on Samuel as his contacts with the United States developed. How, had Coleridge-Taylor lived longer, this collaboration would have influenced the later Pan-African Congresses we can only surmise.

Comments by email:

1) Hello Bill and Hilary,  Coincidentally, I will be playing two C-T works in New York City in October: the Romance, and Keep Me from Sinking Down. The program will also include music by Sibelius and an orchestral suite drawn from William Grant Still's Troubled Island. Details here: 
Best regards,  JMW  [John McLaughlin Williams]

2) Thanks so much for telling me about all this, Bill and John….  I think I will actually be IN NEW YORK on that date in October (with my daughter, Anna)!
Fingers crossed…..   J  Hilary  Hilary Burrage

3) Thank you Bill. I am thrilled that you have chosen to use this excerpt from my earlier post.  Very best wishes, and thanks again for all you do so well, to keep SCT in our minds, Hilary  Hilary Burrage

1 comment:

Charles Kaufmann said...

Happy 140th Birthday, Sir Coleridge-Taylor!