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Pan-Africanism, race and the USA

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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor choral society   Coleridge-Taylor at the Norfolk Festival
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society in Washington, DC (1906)
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
  Coleridge-Taylor at the Norfolk Festival, Virginia (USA)
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
     
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Title page of 24 Negro Melodies   Title page of Nubian Girl

Title-page of 24 Negro Melodies
British Library H.3870ff(9)

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Title-page of Song of the Nubian Girl
British Library H.1193c(18)

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Manuscript of 'Sons of the Sea'    
Manuscript of 'Sons of the Sea', a setting of a poem by Sarojini Naidu (c.1910)
British Library Add. MS 50765, f.1

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Hiawatha's Wedding Feast can be read as a parallel for the African-American experience, and African-American audiences certainly took the work to their hearts. Twenty-Four Negro Melodies also shows the influence of Coleridge-Taylor's friend, the African-American poet Paul Dunbar. In a revealing quotation in the preface to Twenty-Four Negro Melodies Coleridge-Taylor writes: “What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvorak for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro melodies.”

Coleridge-Taylor also took a passionate interest in the issues of race, the politics of colonial freedom, and in his own African background. After reading the work of the African-American writer W.E.B. Dubois, he attended the first Pan-African conference in London in 1900 and became part of a loose circle of black activism. His name was already well known in black America. In 1901 a Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society had been founded by black singers in Washington DC. Coleridge-Taylor's first visit three years later was a grand occasion.

The US Marines Band was engaged, and the first concert took place in Washington in front of an audience of 2,700, two thirds of them black. Two further tours of the US reinforced the composer's reputation; and, during the 1910 tour, Coleridge-Taylor conducted exclusively white orchestras as well as African-Americans - an event without precedent. In the following year he undertook his final commission, the Violin Concerto, whose first version, on its way to the US première, went down with the Titanic. By a strange irony, the central movement was based on a spiritual entitled Keep Me From Sinking Down.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

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Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Dumas Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor John Archer
 
 
 
Discover more:
Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Background and early life
Background and early life
Early days at the RCM
Early days at the RCM
First successes.... and Hiawatha
First successes... and Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Pan-Africanism, race and the USA
The music ends
The music ends
John Archer
John Archer
 
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