Take a moment to get to know composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor better with these quick five facts about his life, his family, and his unique impact on music and literature.
Fact # 1 One of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s most beloved works, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, premiered on November 11, 1898 at the Royal College of Music under the direction of his teacher, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Some sources say the composer conducted the work himself; others indicate that he was so shy that Stanford had to leave the stage to seek him out in order to coax him onstage to receive the audience’s applause.
Fact # 2 Coleridge-Taylor and his wife, Jessie Walmisley, had one son (Hiawatha Coleridge-Taylor) and one daughter, Avril Coleridge-Taylor, who also became an esteemed composer-conductor. In 1933, Ms. Coleridge-Taylor made her debut as a conductor at Royal Albert Hall. She was the first female conductor of HM Royal Marines, a frequent guest conductor of the BBC Orchestra, and a frequent conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1938, she also became the first female conductor to conduct at London’s Hyde Park. She was the founder and conductor of the Coleridge-Taylor Symphony Orchestra and its accompanying musical society, developed to give employment to musicians during the Great Depression. She also founded the Malcolm Sargent Symphony Orchestra and the New World Singers.
Fact # 3 Coleridge-Taylor was made a Knight Official of the Liberian Humane Order of African Redemption, the highest decoration for a civilian given by the Liberian government, thanks to his celebration of Liberia’s independence through musical and poetic compositions. One highlight of these publications was his Liberian Patriotic Hymn, published in the African Times in March of 1897.
Fact # 4 While African-American authors, activists, and educators Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois did not see eye-to-eye on their ideologies for social reform in the United States, both men became highly respected and close friends of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Washington also wrote the preface to Coleridge-Taylor’s 24 Negro Melodies.
Fact # 5 When Samuel Coleridge-Taylor passed away, large crowds attended his funeral in South London, including mourners visiting from South Africa who placed upon his grave a large floral arrangement in the shape of the country of South Africa. A memorial concert was held in 1912 with the benefits and proceeds given to support his family. While his contributions and successes in music were many, his income left little behind for his family, and thus the Performing Rights Society was founded in his memory.