Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born on August 15, 1875 near London, England. His mother was English and his father, a medical student from Sierra Leone, returned to West Africa where he later served as coroner in the Gambia.

As a child Coleridge-Taylor studied violin and sang in the choir of St. George’s Church, Croydon. At the age of fifteen he was admitted by Sir George Grove to the Royal College of Music as a violin student. While at the Royal College his interest in composition grew and he studied composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

Coleridge-Taylor’s work and his visits to the United States were very important cultural and social connections. His collaboration with the famous African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar began in 1896, and is seen in Seven African Romances (1897), A Corn Song (1897) and in an opera, Dream Lovers (1898) – all representing an extraordinary partnership of two nineteenth century artists of African ancestry and their use of African and African-American folk material.

By 1898 Sir Edward Elgar, then England’s leading living composer, was describing Coleridge-Taylor as “far and away the cleverest fellow amongst the young men.” His most famous work is perhaps the trilogy based upon the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Hiawatha's Wedding Feast (1898) is the first of these three works and the one that is often seen as Coleridge-Taylor's crowning achievement, establishing him as one of Britain’s outstanding young composers. From 1903 to his death in 1912, he was professor of composition at the Trinity College of Music in London, as well as the conductor of the Handel Society, the Rochester Choral Society, and many provincial orchestras.

In the United States Coleridge-Taylor’s music and work inspired the establishment of the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society in Washington, DC, composed of some 200 African-American singers for the purpose of performing Coleridge-Taylor’s works. This society sponsored Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s first visit to the United States where he conducted them in a concert at Constitution Hall.

He visited America again in 1906 and 1910, and was seen as a great role model for black composers. He met with Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, and President Theodore Roosevelt invited him as a guest and performer at the White House. In 1912, he contracted double pneumonia and died in Croydon, England at the age of 37.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor — A ba boleki nwana! (They Will Not Lend Me a Child!)

Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), whose father was from the West African nation of Sierre Leone, adapted this East African folk-song – a childless mother’s lament “They will not lend me a child!” (Swahili) adding Western style harmonization and counterpoint. Arranged by Adam Lesnick.

Suited for:


For Woodwind Quintet, 4-5 minutes.
WW5-0345 . . . $22.00

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