The list of musical works by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912) — a graduate of the Royal College of Music in London — includes over one hundred compositions written in the classical style of the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods: operas, cantatas, ballets, symphonic works, instrumental compositions, theater music and songs. In itself, such a prodigious output in such a short time — Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was only 37 when he died — makes Coleridge-Taylor a worthy subject for a documentary.
But as a celebrated, cultured person of biracial identity in the early 20th century, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor also stood out as an international figure capable of bridging racial and social divides. Nowhere was this more valued than in the United States, where people of African descent were striving to gain equal access to education and opportunity in the decades following Reconstruction. To well-meaning people of all races and classes in America, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor symbolized a bright future, in which, above all, everyone would be recognized for their accomplishments.
Due for release in March 2013, "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his music in America" will explore how this remarkable English composer left an untold yet indelible mark on American society. And it will tell the deeper personal story of Coleridge-Taylor's journey to discover and honor his bi-racial identities.
In his music, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor strove to honor his black heritage as well as his white ancestry, yet he refused to be identified solely by either one. This did not always meet the demands of his patrons, publishers, critics and public. On his deathbed, with little time remaining and many compositions left unwritten, he worried that his legacy and later fame would be limited by how others defined him.
Part of the filming for this project has already been completed. Funding is needed for additional filming, as noted below, and for post-filming production.
SCENES AND TOPICS
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor at the Norfolk Music Festival, 1906, 1910 and 1912
Onstage in the Music Shed, The Orchestra of The Longfellow Chorus recreates the premiere of Coleridge-Taylor's violin concert piece, "Keep me from sinkin' down," on the 100th anniversary of its first performance on June 4, 1912, by violinist Maud Powell. (NOTE: this is one of what we hope will be many "firsts" for our film: this work had never been recorded before we did it on film on June 4, 2012.) Festival director Paul Hawkshaw leads producer/director Charles Kaufmann through a tour of the "Whitehouse" — the elaborate Victorian mansion of Coleridge-Taylor's patrons, Carl and Ellen Battell Stoeckel — pointing out rooms and events associated with the composer. Local historian Ann Havemeyer details the history of the festival and the story behind the Battell family's history of musical philanthropy toward people of African descent in the American South following the Civil War. Forest ranger Jody Bronson and producer Charles Kaufmann follow miles of dirt roads in a pickup truck through Great Mountain Forest preserve, in search of mountain laurel in bloom, the Connecticut wildflower that inspired Coleridge-Taylor's cantata, "A Tale of Old Japan," and which serves as an important visual symbol in our film. Find out about Bronson's, Longfellow's and Coelridge-Taylor's appreciation of the wild grouse. [FILMING COMPLETED]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the early Civil Rights Movement in the United States
Various historians and artists discuss Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's connection to and influence on prominent figures of the early Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and, in turn, their influence on the composer and his music. Among these historical figures were W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, J. Rosamond Johnson, Sylvester Russell and others. [PARTIALLY COMPLETED]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Music of Slavery
From jubilee songs to ragtime, from sorrow tones to blues, from Joplin to Gershwin, various historians and artists discuss how the legacy of the music of the African-American slaves influenced the music of English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and how Coleridge-Taylor's music in turn influenced American composers and their music. Among the musical examples will be Coleridge-Taylor's "African Romances" (1897), "24 Negro Melodies," (1905), "Deep River," (1905), "Keep me from sinkin' down" (1912), "Overture to the Song of Hiawatha" (1899), and examples representing the original sources of his compositions, such as "Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord!" from the Songbook of the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University of 1872, [PARTIALLY COMPLETED]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in Washington, D. C. 1904 and 1906
"We have captured for you the Capital of the United States and will hold it subject to your orders . . . our only weapons were truly wonderful voices, and two pianos, and a small organ," wrote Andrew Hilyer, one of the founders of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society of Washington, D. C., to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in London after a successful concert series in 1903. In August 2012, professional opera singers from Washington, D. C. and noted soloists will recreate on film the 1903, 1904 and 1906 performances of the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor by the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society. This topic includes a discussion of the origins and purpose of this African-American choral society as a counter measure to early 20th century racism in Washington; the presence of Coleridge-Taylor in Washington in 1904 and 1906; his historic appearance as guest conductor of the Marine Band in 1904; his meeting with Theodore Roosevelt in the White House in November 1904; the appearance of noted black artists of the period; and the story of the Metropolitan A. M. E. Church, a landmark of African-American history. Musical examples will include excerpts from "Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha," "Spring Had Come" (with Angela Brown), "Onaway! Awake, beloved" (with Rodrick Dixon), "Five Choral Ballads" on Longfellow's "Poems on Slavery," and others. [TO BE FILMED IN AUGUST 2012]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Without doubt, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's most popular composition was his opera-like, four-part "Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha," based on the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But Hiawatha was not the only Longfellow composition by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. His list of works contains nearly two-dozen Longfellow settings. Various historians and artists discuss the topic and perform notable musical excerpts from Coleridge-Taylor's "Hiawatha," his settings of Longfellow's "Poems on Slavery" — including "The Quadroon Girl" and "She Dwells by Great Kenhawa's Side" — "The Arrow and the Song (an early work never befoe recorded), and others. Additionally, historians will discuss how Samuel Coleridge-Taylor succeeded or did not succeed in dealing with Longfellow's controversial ending to "Hiawatha." This segment will include interpretive dance choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Classical vs. Ragtime
When Samuel Coleridge-Taylor first visited the United States in 1904, a reporter from the New York Times caught him off guard by asking him his opinion on American ragtime. "The worst sort of rot," came the reply, which was printed the next day under a sensational headline. Unwittingly, 29-year-old Samuel Coleridge-Taylor had insulted a number of African-American musicians and entered an ongoing American controversy. "As an Englishman," wrote African-American theater critic Sylvester Russell, "Coleridge-Taylor has probably taken the best stand he could." Would ragtime eventually exert an influence upon Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's music? Various historians and artists explore the topic, with musical examples. [PARTIALLY COMPLETED]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Harvard Musical Association
On December 9, 1904, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was invited to the Harvard Musical Association, a private musical club on Beacon Hill in Boston that has its roots in the Transcendentalist movement of the late 1830s and 1840s. Coleridge-Taylor signed his name in the guestbook and left an interesting inscription in his distinctive handwriting on a copy of the full score of his cantata, "Hiawatha's Departure." In Boston, he had had breakfast with Booker T. Washington and had met with his editor at Oliver Ditson Company, future publisher of his "24 Negro Melodies." Not many days before that, in Washington, he had been greeted in the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt and had conducted the Orchestra of the United States Marine Band. He had given concerts in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. What was the significance of his evening at the Boston Musical Association? Producer/director Charles Kaufmann, tenor Rodrick Dixon and BMA librarian Craig Hanson discuss the subject with surprising results. [FILMING COMPLETED]
Rodrick Dixon, tenor; Angela M. Brown, soprano; Robert Honeysucker, baritone; Alison Mixon, ballet artist; Darrel Grand Moultrie, choreographer; Lydia Forbes, violin soloist; The Orchestra of The Longfellow Chorus; Charles Kaufmann, artistic director and producer; Lester Green, music director of the Metropolitan A. M. E. Church of Washington; Wayne D. Shirley, former music reference librarian at the Library of Congress; William Tortolano, historian; Jeffrey Green, historian; Ann Havemeyer, historian; Paul Hawkshaw, director of the Yale Norfolk Summer Music Festival; D. Michael Ressler,
Master Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
Historian, U. S. Marine Band; Melanie Edwards, granddaughter of J. Rosamond Johnson; and others.
Library of the Maine Historical Society; Library of the Harvard Musical Association; historic buildings and grounds of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival; Metropolitan A. M. E. Church of Washington, D. C.; Great Mountain Forest, Norfolk, Connecticut; and other locations.
Charles Kaufmann, artistic director of The Longfellow Chorus
Richard Kane of Kane Lewis Productions
CONCERT RECORDING AND FILM SOUND
A PRODUCTION OF
The Longfellow Chorus, Portland, Maine, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
- (30 days)