'Too young to die: his great simplicity, his happy courage in an alien world, his gentleness, made all that knew him love him.' - Alfred Noyes on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's death
British composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in Holborn, London on 15 August 1875, and grew up in Croydon. His father, a medical student from Sierra Leone, returned to Africa unaware that he would shortly be a father, and was later coroner for the British Empire in Senegambia. Samuel was brought up in a musical family by his mother, who lived with her father and his family. Samuel's grandfather began to teach him violin, then paid for lessons when Samuel's talent became obvious.
At fifteen he began studying at the Royal College of Music, and switched from violin to composition, studying with Charles Villiers Stanford. On graduating, he worked as a teacher at Crystal Palace School of Music and conducted the Croydon Conservatoire orchestra.
He soon gained a reputation as a composer, and Elgar recommended him to the Three Choirs Festival, where his Ballade in A minor received its first performance.
In 1898 Stanford conducted Coleridge-Taylor's Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, and the work's popularity (and it's composer's increasing fascination with his father's background) encouraged the young composer to make three tours of the USA, where he received great support from the African American community and was received by Theodore Roosevelt at The White House.
Back in London, he met the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and set some of his poems to music. Dunbar and others encouraged Coleridge-Taylor to explore his Sierra Leonean ancestry and African music. He was alos asked to judge at music competitions, because of his success as a composer.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died from pneumonia in Croydon on 1 September 1912, aged only thirty-seven, possibly because of the stress of his financial situation. (He had had to sell the rights to Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, whih sold hundreds of thousands of copies, for fifteen guineas.)
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