Literary Award shapes Black History Month at Morley
Dvorak: Legends op. 59 nos. 7 & 9
Coleridge-Taylor: Ballade in d minor for violin and orchestra op. 4
Coleridge-Taylor: Novelette op. 52 no. 1
Coleridge-Taylor: Zara’s Earrings, for soprano and orchestra op. 7
Coleridge-Taylor: Petite Suite de Concert op. 77
Violin: Leon Human
Soprano: Sera Baines
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in 1875 to an English mother and a Sierra Leone Creole father whom he never met. He was named after the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and raised in Croydon by his mother. His maternal grandfather was a violinist who saw the young Coleridge-Taylor’s talent and encouraged him to enrol at the Royal College of Music. He won a scholarship, beating out Gustav Holst amongst others, and began studying as a violinist before switching to composition.
He was deeply involved with African-American networks, counting amongst his friends W. E. B. Dubois, Frederick Loudin, Booker T. Washington and Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose poems he set to music. In works such as ‘Symphonic Variations on an African Air’, he sought to integrate the melodies of African-American spirituals within the classical music tradition. Like Brahms, Dvořák or Grieg, Coleridge-Taylor was participating in the nineteenth-century trend of musical nationalism.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died at 37 of pneumonia. Despite his popular successes, he had been prevented from reaping the financial rewards. With public support, a memorial concert was held at the Royal Albert Hall which raised significant funds for his family. His widow Jessie was granted a pension from the king and the Performing Rights Society was established to ensure composers were paid adequately for their works’ success. Later, his daughter became a composer-conductor and his son worked to ensure his father’s music was performed after his death. This concert celebrates all things Coleridge-Taylor was, including two of his early works for orchestra and a soloist – the Ballad in D minor op. 4 and Zara’s earrings op. 7.