Leaving the Royal College of Music in 1897, Coleridge Taylor married
Jessie Fleetwood in 1899 and became both the conductor at the Handel
Society and Professor of Composition at Trinity College, London. He
composed without using a piano, putting together the whole score in
his heart and mind. The crowning achievement of his career was the trilogy
- Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, The Death of Minehaha and
Hiawatha's Departure - to which part of Longfellow's poem was
set. This work was first performed in stages between 1898 and 1901.
Coleridge Taylor published 59 works in total.
Although he never visited his father's native land, he was greatly
interested in African music and in political issues concerning black
people. In 1900, Coleridge Taylor helped organise the international
Pan-Africanist Conference in London, at which, in the words of its chairman,
'for the first time in the history of the world black men had gathered
together from all parts of the globe with the object of discussing and
improving the condition of the black race'. Together with Duse Mohammed,
he founded a London pan-Africanist newspaper, The African and Orient
Review. In the early 1900s, he toured in the USA where his work
was also greatly appreciated; an all-black Coleridge Taylor Musical
Society was set up in Washington.
Coleridge Taylor died of pneumonia in 1912 in his 38th year, survived
by his wife, a son (named Hiawatha) and a daughter. His achievements
were all the more impressive considering that, in the England of 1901,
black people were widely caricatured in the press, literature, music
and in the popular imagination.
For more on Samuel Coleridge Taylor, follow this link to Channel
4's Black History website.