Samuel Coleridge-Taylor


  • Intro

    English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s (1875-1912) greatest success was his vibrant choral piece Hiawatha's Wedding Feast. Composed in 1898, the piece was based on a poem by Henry Longfellow about a native American girl named Hiawatha. Choirs were incredibly popular in Victorian Britain, and his big, attractive score, flowing with melody, appealed to both singers and audiences.


    Coleridge-Taylor was mixed race - his mother was white English, his father a black Sierra Leonean. He was very well aware of the difficulties he faced because of the colour of his skin: his nickname at school, for instance, was 'coaley'. But he was a keen student and in 1890 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. He soon became highly respected among London's musical establishment. The composer Edward Elgar called him "the cleverest fellow going amongst the young men", and recommended him for his first big commission. In a time when amateur choirs and sheet music were a central part of popular culture Hiawatha's Wedding Feast was a score for all to enjoy.

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