The Music Plays on — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Donato Cabrera
3 min readJun 5, 2020
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875. Coleridge-Taylor was raised by his mother and his grandfather, who taught him to play the violin. He quickly took to the instrument and was admitted at age 15 to the Royal College of Music. He switched from violin to composition and studied with the highly esteemed Charles Villiers Stanford. After graduation, he became a professional musician and was soon hired to be a professor at Crystal Palace School of Music as well as the conductor for the Croyden Conservatoire.

Edward Elgar who described Coleridge-Taylor as “far and away the cleverest fellow going amongst the younger men," recommended him to the Three Choirs Festival 1896 and his wonderful orchestral piece Ballade for orchestra, Op.33 was premiered there in 1898.

Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was composed in 1898, directly following the successful premiere of his Ballade. The premiere on November 11, 1898 was the event of the season. An elderly Sir Arthur Sullivan made it a point to see the premiere and wrote, “Dined at home and went to Roy. Coll. Music Concert to hear Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha. Much impressed by the lad’s genius. He is a composer, not a music-maker. The music is fresh and original — he has melody and harmony in abundance, and his scoring is brilliant and full of colour — at times luscious, rich and sensual. The work was very well done.”

Like so many around the world, he was greatly inspired by Longfellow’s 1855 poem, The Song of Hiawatha — he even named his son, Hiawatha — and Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast was the first of what would become a trilogy of works. However, the second and third movements, The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha’s Departure never reached the fame of the first movement, a piece that would be played around the world. In fact, Coleridge-Taylor was such an international sensation that by1904 he was received by Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.

Donato Cabrera

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic