Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast," his once world-famous cantata, returns to the Windy City in November 2017.
|Samuel Coleridge-Taylor as a young man.|
of the Chicago Bar Association Symphony
Anglo-African composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was black—his mother was English, his father from Sierra Leone—the first classical composer of African descent to be recognized internationally for his music.
Coleridge-Taylor achieved fame overnight with the premiere of Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, his setting of lines from Longfellow's epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which premiered at the Royal College of Music in November 1898, when the composer was just 22 years old. Hiawatha proved a sensation, was soon performed hundreds of times, selling hundreds of thousands of copies across the globe.
Racial prejudice being what it was (and sometimes, unfortunately, still is) it is perhaps not surprising that the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor disappeared into the void in the years following his early death at the age of 37. But for a time, during the first decades of the last century, as the article on Wikipedia states, "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast became so famous in Britain that for many years it rivaled Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah in the public's affections."
|The composer in his studio|
On our November concert, I will pair Hiawatha's Wedding Feast with Dvorak's New World Symphony.
I hope, after our encounter with his music, both audience and musicians will discover we feel the same way.
A short documentary about the composer on You Tube, narrated by his daughter and including excerpts from the cantata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsYU8WfmIoA
The Wikipedia Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_Hiawatha_(Coleridge-Taylor)#Background
A good recent performance on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yr1sdM67oH8
(The recording includes all of the cantatas that make up SCT's "Song of Hiawatha." Hiawatha's Wedding Feast is first, running about 30 minutes.)