String Play for All is pleased to offer string arrangements of the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). Coleridge-Taylor was born in Croydon, England. His father descended from African-American slaves who were freed by the British and evacuated from the colonies at the end of the American Revolutionary War. He was a doctor, but was not allowed to work in England, He returned to his home country, Sierra Leone, just before Samuel's birth, unaware of his son’s conception. Anne Hare Martin, Samuel’s mother, named him after the famous English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Coleridge-Taylor received his musical training from the Royal College of Music. One of his principal composition teachers was Charles Villiers Stanford. While a student, he published some anthems, but his real strength was in colorful instrumental works. At the suggestion of Edward Elgar, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned to write a piece for a festival in 1898. The resulting "Ballade in A Minor" was a tremendous success. A subsequent trilogy written between 1898 and1900, based on the story of Hiawatha secured his future fame.
In 1899, Coleridge-Taylor first heard American spirituals sung by the Fisk Jubilee singers on one of their European tours. Enamored by the Negro spirituals and melodies, Coleridge-Taylor became one of the first classical composers to incorporate African melodies in his works, similar to Brahms and Dvorak’s use of Hungarian Music. In 1902 a group of African-American music lovers formed the Coleridge-Taylor Society to perform and promote his music in America, and eventually brought Coleridge-Taylor to the U.S. for three successful tours, in 1904, 1906, and 1910. During the first tour, Coleridge-Taylor conducted the Marine Band along with
the Coleridge-Taylor Society Chorus. President Theodore Roosevelt welcomed him to the White House, an honor given to very few Black composers at the time. Subsequent tours took Coleridge-Taylor to numerous cities in the Midwest and the East. He became so famous that many referred to him as “The African Mahler.” Coleridge-Taylor composed "24 Negro Melodies" for solo piano in 1905. The string arrangements presented here are from this collection.