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22.03.2012 Education

UK Voluntary Organisation Highlights African British composer and pan-Africanist Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in Accra 100 Years After His death


UK-based volunttary organisation BTWSC brings to Accra, Ghana an adapted version of 'Remembering Samuel Coleridge-Taylor', a presentation it's delivering 2012-13 in British schools, libraries and archives.

A free event, which highlights Coleridge-Taylor's life, music, and legacy as an African British composer and pan-Africanist, takes place at the WEB Du Bois Centre, Accra on Thursday March 29 2012 from 3-5pm.

The programme will consist of power point-assisted presentation by music industry and history consultant Kwaku. Veteran diplomat, politician, columnist and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor fan Mr. KB Asante will introduce the question and answer section.

It's delivered in association with WEB Du Bois Memorial Centre For Pan African Culture (GH), Music Congress (UK), and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor 100PM Collective (UK).

At the beginning of the 20th century, he was perhaps the first Diaspora African global musical star.

One of his compositions, 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast', took Britain and the Western world by storm. It vied in popularity with long-established choral pieces such as 'Messiah' and 'Elijah'.

Although much admired in his native Britain, he was also appreciated internationally, particularly in the US, where there were several choral societies named after him and made three well-received tours, including being the first African to conduct an all-European orchestra, which earned him the 'African Mahler nickname.

A big name in his day, his fame has waned in recent decades, though this is about to change in the centenary year of his death.

This African British musical genius, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in 1875 in London, England to an African father (from Sierra Leone) and an English mother.

His musical talent was discovered long before he entered London's Royal College Of Music in 1890 aged 15, where he twice won the top prize for composition.

His best known composition, 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast' was a big hit following its premiere in 1898, and was the favourite section of the much larger 'The Songs Of Hiawatha' which he conducted at the Royal Albert Hall in 1900.

At the height of his fame, he did not abandon his African heritage - he was a member of the African Association, which organised the 1900 Pan-African Conference in London.

This was attended by American historian and academic WEB Du Bois, who was to become a lifelong friend of Coleridge-Taylor and his family.

Coleridge-Taylor incorporated various African themes and musical styles into the classical music canon - from the 'Toussaint L'Ouverture' overture, the 'African Romances' compositions, to '24 Negro Melodies', which consisted of new arrangements of music sourced from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US.

In spite of his fame, he had to regularly work, teaching, conducting, and writing, in order to maintain his family.

When he died in 1912, aged just 37, the British public was so shocked to read about the dire state of his estate, a fund-raising concert of his music was performed at the Royal Albert Hall, and King George V granted his widow an annual pension for the joy her husband's work had given to the nation.

Awula Serwah