COLERIDGE-TAYLOR, Samuel (1875-1912)
Plaque erected in 1975 by Greater London Council at 30 Dagnall Park, South Norwood, London, SE25 5PH, London Borough of Croydon
Music and Dance
SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR 1875-1912 Composer of the "Song of Hiawatha" lived here
The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is best remembered for The Song of Hiawatha. He was the first black recipient of a blue plaque, which was erected on his former home at 30 Dagnall Park, South Norwood in 1975.
Coleridge-Taylor was born in Holborn, the son of a Sierra Leonean student, and brought up in Croydon by his white English mother. His musical talents were spotted early and by 1891 he was studying the violin at the Royal College of Music. In 1893 he won a scholarship that enabled him to continue his education for a further four years, during which time his abilities as a composer became apparent.
In 1898 the college hosted the first performance of Coleridge-Taylor’s most famous work, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, which was an immediate success and was first performed at the Albert Hall in 1900. It inspired further pieces including The Death of Minnehaha (1899) and Departure (1900), which completed his three-part cantata Scenes from ‘The Song of Hiawatha’.
Early in 1900, after marrying Jessie Fleetwood Walmisley (1869–1962) – who had also studied at the Royal College of Music – he moved to 30 Dagnall Park. The couple and their son Hiawatha (1900–80), later a musician, remained here until 1901.
FAME AND LATER WORKS
Following the success of The Song of Hiawatha Coleridge-Taylor’s career flourished, and his compositions were much performed, both in Britain and America. He spent several years teaching at Trinity College of Music (1903–10) and the Guildhall School of Music (1910–13), and was active as a conductor in London and New York. He became increasingly interested in African folk music and composed several works on this theme, including African Romances (1897) and 24 Negro Melodies (1905).
His popularity was partly responsible for his demise: overwork brought on pneumonia, leading to his untimely death at the age of 37 at Aldwick, 6 St Leonard’s Road in Duppas Hill, where he had lived since 1909.