Young musician helps celebrate life of local composer

Sean Creighton, the co-founder and co-ordinator of the Coleridge-Taylor Network, will be giving a talk about the life and works of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor this Friday as part of the South Norwood Arts Festival.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: renewed interest

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: renewed interest

The Coleridge-Taylor Network staged a range of events last year to mark the centenary of the death of the composer, whose most famous piece is the Song of Hiawatha choral work.

“His orchestral and instrumental work is full of melody and feeling,” Creighton said. “He is worth celebrating because he had three successful trips to the United States in a period when racism was still very much alive.

“Celebrating his life is worth doing in itself within Croydon as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor opens up a window on to the way in which a man of African heritage could become a highly popular and a  household name, whose most famous work Song of Hiawatha was an annual major hit at the Royal Albert Hall between the Wars and in the 1950s and early 1960s. 

“With his use of African musical themes and poems by black authors set within the English classical musical genre, he links with popular culture in which black entertainers on the music hall were an important part of the Edwardian scene, and with American and British black activists he links into the changing nature of black music out of which emerges the introduction of jazz into Britain.

“He was also in at the birth of Pan-Africanism in London in 1900 with its demand for black rights across the world. Last year’s events have introduced him and his music to new audiences, including primary and secondary school students working on their own creative interpretations of his life and work for a show at the Royal Court Theatre later this month.

“His death at the age of 37 was mourned by leading musicians of his day, and we lost the possibility of richer works if he had entered middle and old age.”

Performing at the event tomorrow evening will be leading young South Norwood musician William Campbell. Only 12 years old, Campbell is a leading violinist in the National Youth Orchestra, and has played at the Albert, Cadogan and Wigmore Halls, as well as in Salzburg Cathedral and in Barcelona.

He was also chosen from 500 young musicians to play at “A celebration of Young Musical Talent” at the House of Commons last November, and has received special scholarships which have enabled him to study and play at both the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.

Campbell’s mother, Anna, says that he regards playing in his home town of South Norwood, where Coleridge-Taylor also spent much of his life, as “a privilege and an amazing experience. We are very proud that he has been asked to play.

“It is nice that we are giving Coleridge-Taylor recognition in South Norwood, and it will be good for us here to appreciate better why we have a centre named after him.”

  • Creighton and Campbell’s presentation begins at 7.30pm on Friday, July 5, at the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Centre, 194 Selhurst Road, SE25 6XX
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