Jon Larimore writes: This coming Sunday our choir is presenting Coleridge-Taylor’s “O Ye That Love The Lord”. I’m wondering when this anthem was composed and if it was part of a larger work by Coleridge-Taylor, what that work might be? I found a wealth of information, Continue reading
Charles Kaufmann writes: You may be interested in seeing the YouTube video I’ve just posted featuring soprano Angela Brown singing with our orchestra a song by Coleridge-Taylor, “The Stars,” which is a setting of a poem by his friend Kathleen Easmon Simango. Noteworthy about this video are the two images of the original manuscript of The Stars in Coleridge-Taylor’s distinctive handwriting: Continue reading
and orchestra of the spiritual ‘Keep Me from Sinkin’ Down‘.
The history of the piece is as follows: during SC-T’s visit to the Norfolk, Connecticut, Festival in 1910, he overheard Mrs Stoeckel (the wife of the festival patron, Carl Stoeckel) playing the negro hymn ‘Keep Me from Sinking Down, Good Lord‘ on the piano. As Geoffrey Self writes in The Hiawatha Man, “Impressed with its beauty, he thought he had found a subject for the slow movement of the violin concerto he was then planning. It was a tune Mrs Stoeckel had learned from her father, to whom it had been passed down by a slave. In the event, SC-T found it impractical to use this tune and instead, he wrote a slow movement based on another negro hymn, ‘Many thousand gone‘.” This, too, was ultimately set aside (and survives only in a short-score version for violin and piano), the final version of the violin concerto having a slow movement which is an entirely original composition, not based on any folk material.
In spite of that, both Maud Powell, the renowned American violinist for whom SCT was writing his concerto, and Carl Stoeckel pressed SC-T for an arrangement of ‘Keep Me from Sinking Down, Good Lord‘, to be made for violin and orchestra. Unable to resist this plea, he made the transcription and sent it in time for it to be used as an encore in the premiere performance of the Concerto which was given in June 1912 at the Norfolk festival. As far as Patrick and I know, the manuscript of this transcription (which runs to just over 200 bars) has lain undisturbed in the Stoeckel family papers at Yale University Library for the intervening 100 years.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: a musical life by Jeffrey Green
Dr Dominique-Rene de Lerma writes:
Over more than three decades, English historian Jeffrey Green has presented a series of discoveries on Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), an English composer who did not follow his contemporaries into British folk music but instead responded to a yearning for Africa, the homeland of a father he never knew.
While the composer was still a student, his substantial and original talent became manifest in works of unusual quality, and he gave sympathetic notice to Native Americans, via Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, a choral work.
In the half century following his premature death at the age of 37, Coleridge-Taylor’s choral music was heard almost as often as the major works of Handel and Mendelssohn, and his work and three visits to
the US provided an exceptionally important impetus for the Harlem Renaissance. This biography corrects errors of the past and reveals that which had been hidden. One comes away from this study with a new sense of the composer, his colleagues and supporters, and the social and political
environment in which he lived.
D.-R. de Lerma, Lawrence UniversityGreen, Jeffrey. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: a musical life. Pickering &
Chatto, 2011. (For sale by (Dist. by Ashgate Publishing)) 296p bibl index
afp ISBN 9781848931619, $99.00; ISBN 9781848931626 e-book, contact publisher
We are delighted that the Black Cultural Archives in London have invited the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation to collaborate with them on shared information and the BCA archiving materials concerning Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. This is exactly the sort of joint working which SCTF seeks in order to take forward our objective of ‘bringing people together through music’.
Victoria Lane writes: Black Cultural Archives (BCA) is currently preparing to open the doors to the UK’s first national Black heritage centre, in spring 2013, on Brixton’s Windrush Square, London. This will realise our Founder’s vision and will be a landmark moment in British history, marking BCA out as a premier Black heritage organisation in the UK.
Black Cultural Archives is a registered charity, founded as a community group in 1981 to collect, preserve and celebrate the contributions made by Black people to the culture, society and heritage of the UK. An archive and a Black heritage centre both offer crucial insight into multicultural Britain and inspire future generations.
During its 30 year history, BCA has amassed an extensive collection of ephemera, documents and photographs, together with interactive and ‘living history’ elements, such as oral and video testimony. The archive is brought to life by the collections and learning teams, who deliver workshops and learning sessions to provide context and deeper understanding of the Black experience in Britain.
The importance of preserving these collections and adding to them for future generations is at the heart of BCA’s mission. We already give access to the public and have catalogued and preserved material to professional archival standards but the new heritage centre will give us the proper environmental storage conditions to ensure the long-term preservation of our collections.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor forms an important part of BCA’s collections and has been part of BCA’s programmes in the past, especially with a concert organised on the South Bank in 1985. We have an extensive collection of sheet music and programmes. Follow this link to BCA’s Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Collection which has been amassed over the years.
We are always looking to develop this collection so if you have any archival material relating to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor including letters, photographs or other papers that you would like to preserve and share for future generations, BCA would be happy to discuss how you might loan or gift these items for when we move to our new premises.
Please feel free to contact Victoria Lane, Collections Manager, if you would like to contribute. You can send Victoria an email, or call her on +44 (0) 20 7582 8516. The BCA website is: www.bcaheritage.org.uk
Daniel Labonne writes: 2012 is the centenary year of the death of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Having spent most of his life in the Surrey town of Croydon, it is right that Croydon and Surrey devote a programme of activities to pay a proper tribute to the Afro-British composer. You will remember that SC-T’s father was a Sierra Leone doctor and his mother a London woman. In Victorian England, the half-cast conductor and composer was unusual. It is not only the premature death (he died age 37), but it is the hard-working creative artist he was that makes him a positive role-model. He was also quite daring, trying his hand at various forms of musical expression. Sometimes at his own peril, as suggests Jonathan Butcher, the arranger-stage director of Thelma.
Thelma is a full length opera by Coleridge-Taylor, created in a world premiere at Fairfields Halls, in Croydon, on the 9th,10th,11th February 2012. On the opening night, I was among the spectators at Ashcroft Theatre and I fully enjoyed a performance by the Surrey Opera. There were some 90 performers – musicians, choir and lead roles. The storyline takes us to the land of the Vikings at the time of Christian conversion in the 10th-11th century. To venture so far, culturally speaking, and so deep into the past may be considered either a weakness or a mark of courage. But when we consider the earlier success of Hiawatha trilogy, it becomes clearer why the composer kept reaching out to far-away tales and drama to inspire his musical work. Native Americans, Old Japan, Vikings… But can we really hold it against him, given his personal background, that beyond the merits of musical work, he should attempt to make a statement about ‘difference’?
Jonathan Butcher found the libretto awkward and regrets that SC-T had not invited another writer to collaborate, instead of producing the lyrics of Thelma. The likelihood is that Coleridge-Taylor was always in need of money and he had been betrayed before over shared rights… We must also remember the fact that, at 37, he was still experimenting. The production of Thelma is therefore an adaptation but ‘the plot has been retained exactly as SC-T imagined it’. I liked what I saw and heard. Particularly appealing is the staging of the undersea kingdom. The musical rendering succeeds in sustaining the attention throughout the two and a half hour performance. But does any moment bring a tear to my eye? No. Tim Baldwin, in the role of King Olaf, had both the vocal skills and the mastery among a cast that does reflect a touch multicultural inspirations. The unique setting was effective, thanks to simplicity of lines and curves brought alive by the quality of lighting.
The task accomplished is both worthwhile and enjoyable. And the Surrey Opera deserves gratitude for raising the curtain over yet another facet of the talents of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. From the 14th February to the 30th December, the celebration of Croydon’s man of music will take many forms. I am personally pleased that, in the centenary festival, a gala concert including SC-T’s Violin Concerto in G Minor and Hiawatha Wedding Feast features on the programme of activities.
That is exactly where the SC-T Society of Croydon left it in 2000. The good news is that, since then the SC-T Foundation has taken over and lacks neither drive nor artistic skills, given the relationship with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and others. Samuel Coleridge Taylor deserves more recognition and ongoing exposure, both locally and nationally. And – why not? – internationally. 2012 is the year to get it right.
(ex. Croydon SC-T Society artistic director)
Robert Eichert is the latest recruit to the SCTF panel of writers. He attended the recent premiere of Thelma, and writes:
World Première of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Opera, Thelma (or The Amulet)
Over four hundred people, including the mayor, local MP and descendants of the composer, braved the freezing weather to attend Croydon’s Ashcroft Theatre on the 9th of February for Surrey Opera’s eagerly anticipated world première of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s opera, Thelma.
Catherine Carr’s pre-performance talk covered her rediscovery of the Thelma manuscript at the British Library and furnished useful additional background. During the question and answer session it emerged that an audience member had been present at one of the staged productions of Hiawatha in the 1930’s.
Following Catherine’s discovery, work still had to be done by the talented team at Surrey Opera to prepare Thelma for performance, notably the transcription of the original manuscripts and the adaptation of the libretto. The plot of Thelma was relatively uncomplicated to follow with the ample programme notes and surtitles to assist.
The excellent orchestra was conducted with flair by Jonathan Butcher. The minimalist set and lighting was highly effective and enhanced the mood. Indeed, the mist from the soldiers’ encampment in the first act wafted through the orchestra and reached some of the audience. The costumes looked the part, especially those of the undersea dwellers, the Necks, with their shell hats and seaweed robes that looked as if they had been shredded in the dreaded Maelstrom.
In keeping with Coleridge-Taylor’s other works, the music was rich in melody. There were several good solos and duets and one moving piece sung by the four lead characters. The choir and principals performed well. The audience gave more applause at the end for their favourite characters. But the music was the real winner.
All in all, Thelma was a splendid collaborative effort. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s home town did him proud.
Other reviews of the premiere of Thelma, finally performed on 9-11 February 2012. If you know of other reviews of Thelma, please do tell us via the Comments box below. Thank you!
The Guardian (Andrew Clements): http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/feb/10/thelma-review
Sierra Express: http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/archives/35002