The Orchestra of The Longfellow Chorus, Charles Kaufmann, conductor, performs an excerpt from "Overture to The Song of Hiawatha" (1899)
from the soundtrack of the movie Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America.

Music: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Opus 30. No. 3


The Orchestra of The Longfellow Chorus, Charles Kaufmann, conductor, performs "The Bamboula Rhapsodic Dance" (1910) from the soundtrack of the movie Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America.

Music: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Opus 75

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
and his music in America, 1900–1912


MOVIE SYNOPSIS

119 minutes in length, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900–1912, covers Coleridge-Taylor's life, birth to death, concentrating on the years between 1900 and 1912, when his life and his music — not just Hiawatha's Wedding Feast — had a profound influence on music and society in the United States.

Perhaps no one understood Sierra-Leonean-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's contribution to American society better than W. E. B. Du Bois, who wrote later in 1925:

"First came his music and it thrilled and captivated the nation. Then came Mr. Taylor himself. We . . . watched the experiment with some interest and excitement because we wondered if there was enough of artistic feeling in the United States to receive a man of negro descent as a great artist in a country where the color line is so decidedly drawn. . . .  He left America, as elsewhere in the world, a beautiful memory."

The camera follows the path of Coleridge-Taylor to the Marine Barracks of the US Marine Band (Coleridge-Taylor conducted the Orchestra of the US Marine Band in 1904); to the private library of the Harvard Musical Association in Boston, where the composer left his traces in December 1904; to the exclusive Music Shed of the Yale/Norfolk Summer Music Festival, where Maud Powell premiered Coleridge-Taylor's Violin Concerto in June 1912; and into the magnificent Victorian mansion of Coleridge-Taylor's reclusive patrons, Carl and Ellen Battell Stoeckel.

Of special interest is the recreation of concerts, 1903–1906, of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society in the Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, DC, by a chorus of professional singers from the DC area led by Dr. Lester Green, former Metropolitan AME minister of music. Additional musical segments include a number of performances of Coleridge-Taylor songs and arias by Rodrick Dixon, tenor; Angela Brown, soprano; and Robert Honeysucker, baritone. Mr. Honeysucker recreates historic performances of Coleridge-Taylor arias by Harry T. Burleigh.

The film contains mini documentaries about the lives of American violinist Maud Powell and American ragtime composer J. Rosamond Johnson, both inspired by Coleridge-Taylor and his music. Of note are Powell's transcriptions of Coleridge-Taylor's and J. Rosamond Johnson's settings of African-American spirituals — performed in the film by contemporary violinist Rachel Barton Pine — and an in-depth look at the American ragtime period, 1902–1920, with historic photographs, narrated by J. Rosamond Johnson's granddaughter, Melanie Edwards.

Historians interviewed for the film include Dr. William Tortolano, the dean of Coleridge-Taylor scholarship in the US; Jeffrey Green, British author of the most up-to-date Coleridge-Taylor biography; Karen A. Shaffer, president of the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education; Wayne Shirley, senior music specialist emeritus at the Library of Congress; Paul Hawkshaw, director of the Yale Norfolk Summer Music Festival and Yale professor in the practice of musicology; and Thelma Jacobs, historian of the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC.

The soundtrack of the film also contains portions of the recent production of the complete four-part Coleridge-Taylor Scenes from The Song of Hiawatha (with ballet) by The Longfellow Chorus, Orchestra and Ballet Ensemble — an historic performance — the Violin Concert in G-minor, with violinist Tai Murray; and other works.

Significantly, the premiere by Maud Powell of the concerto and of Coleridge-Taylor's concert piece for violin and orchestra based on an African-America spiritual, Keep me from sinkin' down, are recreated on the centennial and on the same stage where these last works of SC-T were first performed on June 4, 1912.

Contact the producer

VIEWER COMMENTS

(based on seventy-seven reviews)

Story   4.47   

Video Imagery   4.67   

Musical Performances   4.96   

Archival Images   4.70   

Overall   4.56   

"We, the audience, enjoyed a well-crafted musical documentary, celebrating diversity, history and music driven by inspirational film-making."
—Dr. Andrea Guiati, Buffalo State Distinguished Teaching Professor, SUNY, College at Buffalo screening, April 9, 2014.

"The musical performances were incredibly moving and they really caused me to think about why Coleridge-Taylor's music/career was lost."
—SUNY, College at Buffalo screening, April 9, 2014.

"I liked how the film incorporated and overlapped the live [filmed performances] from today [with those from] the early 1900s. I loved the violinists."
—SUNY, College at Buffalo screening, April 9, 2014.

"This fine film, touching, informative, and inspiring, appears to be the work of a man with a mission. Charles Kaufmann seems determined to make Samuel Coleridge-Taylor a household name once more among music lovers, and has spared no pains in ferreting out fascinating details of the composer's personal and artistic development. To anyone interested in social history or musical history or both at a time of considerable ferment, this film can be wholeheartedly recommended."
—Review of the Boston University screening, March 17, 2014, in the Boston Musical Intelligencer

"I went to the film as much for the history as the music, and being such a novice, I particularly liked the chronological nature of the film. And it was all new and interesting music and information."
—Boston University screening, March 17, 2014

"[A] great treasure trove of footage . . . . Thank you."
—Boston University screening, March 17, 2014

"Great film; great education. . . . I learned a great deal from all of it."
—Boston University screening, March 17, 2014

"I learned a lot from this film. It was very informative but also very interesting. . . . The music was brilliant."
—Boston University screening, March 17, 2014

"Handsome-looking film with a wealth of historical content and interviews."
—Boston University screening, March 17, 2014

"Thank you for speaking at the African American Music in World Culture: Art as Refuge & Strength in the Struggle for Freedom conference. We very much enjoyed your talk and the screening of your film on March 17. We are grateful that you were able to be part of the conference."
African American Studies Program, Boston University

"[An] important addition to American musical, African and documentary history."
—Oberlin College & Conservatory screening, February 18, 2014

"Much kudos to the wonderful performers. You really captured the rich culture of not only Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, but the prestigious legacy of black musicians, and the high caliber of music we create. Very organized and equal balance of story and performance."
—Oberlin College & Conservatory screening, February 18, 2014

"Absolutely remarkable performances!"
—Pasadena screening, October 8, 2013

"Great film providing background, not just on Coleridge-Taylor, but African–American performers."
—Pasadena screening, October 8, 2013

"I loved how Coleridge-Taylor's music was the centerpiece of this film, not only that, but the director's passion in music really shone."
—Pasadena screening, October 8, 2013

"I thought the orchestra and chorus sounded exquisite, as well as the direction of the film. The quality was well done."
—Pasadena screening, October 8, 2013

"What I saw was fascinating and the musical selections wonderful, especially the Violin Concerto. I also liked the archival footage. Thanks for your research and effort to renew his legacy."
—Pasadena screening, October 8, 2013

"You certainly have done a masterful job of portraying the accomplishments of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. All of the music in the movie was truly beautiful. What a great place to come to see the film."
—Norfolk screening, June 19, 2013

"Wow - a beautiful tribute to a composer who deserves universal and renewed attention and respect. Gorgeous performances!"
—Portland screening, March 16, 2013

"Great broad story with SC-T's interaction with other people and individuals. Wonderfully and exceptionally done!!"
—Portland screening, March 16, 2013

"Bravo! Beautiful voice, orchestra and overall story!"
—Portland screening, March 16, 2013

"Kept my attention - a plus, given it's a documentary. Bravo! for doing this."
—Portland screening, March 16, 2013

"It made my eyes water and my spine tingle."
—Portland screening, March 16, 2013

"SC-T is a cult, a religion, a master. Bravo Maestro."
—Dr. William Tortolano, March 25, 2013

"Congrats on this stunning achievement! You are really spreading the message of C-T! Bravo!"
—John McLaughlin Williams, Grammy-award winning conductor and violinist, March 26, 2013

"We congratulate you and all the many people who were involved. . . SC-T must be sitting on a cloud somewhere rejoicing in the laurels that are rightly his."
—Karen A. Shaffer and Pamela Blevins, the Maud Powell Society, March 31, 2013