During his short career as a composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor produced dynamic works that were performed far and wide. His star was rising in the classical music world, but a bout with pneumonia took his life at 37. Despite his premature passing, he left behind an impressive collection of compositions that continues to inspire both musicians and audiences.
The University of Houston’s Moores School of Music (MSM) will pay tribute to the influential composer with “Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: A Centennial Celebration” Oct. 5 – 6 in the Moores Opera House (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard). The concert will showcase the rich talents of the Moores School’s faculty and students, as well as guest artists. Tickets for this event are $17 and $12 for students and seniors. For more information on tickets, contact the Moores box office at 713-743-3009, or visit the MSM website.
Performance details are as follows:
- 7:30 p.m., Oct. 5 – MSM faculty will perform a recital of songs, piano and chamber music. Performers include soprano Cynthia Clayton, mezzo-soprano Melanie Sonnenberg, baritone Timothy Jones and pianist Nancy Weems.
- 7:30 p.m., Oct. 6 – Performers include the Moores Symphony Orchestra with conductor Franz Krager, the Moores Concert Chorale directed by Betsy Weber, Prairie View A&M University Concert Chorale directed by A. Jan Taylor, violinist Andrzej Grabiec and guest tenor soloist Zachary Averyt.
At 2 p.m., Oct. 5, John Snyder, UH professor of music theory, will lead a panel discussion focused on Coleridge-Taylor’s life and work. Other panelists include authors and academicians Earl L. Stewart, Jeffrey Green and Yvonne Kendall.
“He was pretty much a ‘rock star’ in his day,” Snyder said. “He was revered as a composer and was an icon for people of color.”
Coleridge-Taylor was born in 1875 in London to an English mother and a father from Africa. He studied violin and composition at the Royal College of Music and taught at the Crystal Palace School of Music. Among his iconic works is cantata “Hiawatha’s Wedding-feast.” This particular piece was so popular that he composed two accompanying works “The Death of Minnehaha” and “Hiawatha’s Departure.” This trilogy became his hallmark and was performed regularly on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. His other popular works include “Piano Quintet in G Minor,” “Nonet in F Minor” and “Symphony in A Minor.”
“His work is very melodious, and he was an incredible orchestrator” Snyder said. “He also was very clever with rhythms. These performances provide great opportunities for Houstonians to revisit his work and learn more about this wonderful composer.”
In the early 20th century, his work influenced the creation of 200-member chorus, The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Society, in Washington, D.C. Other vocal groups around the globe have been formed in his honor including a Houston-based chorus that existed in the 1930s.
Coleridge-Taylor earned a following in the United States following three tours. During his last U.S. trip, he conducted the New York Philharmonic. His impact in America contributed to the founding of two schools named for him in Louisville, Ky., and Baltimore.
MSM is one of the premier music schools in America. Offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, it serves approximately 600 students annually. Areas of study include composition, conducting, performance, theory and musicology. Its faculty consists of internationally recognized performers, composers and scholars. Among its ensembles are the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, Moores Jazz Ensemble, Moores Opera Center, Concert Chorale, Concert Women’s Chorus, Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble. A majority of the school’s concerts are performed in the 800-seat Moores Opera House. For more details on the Moores School of Music, visit http://www.music.uh.edu/.