12 year old South Norwood William Campbell will perform some music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor this Friday as part of an evening commemoration of the composer, at which I will talk about his life. Starting at 7.30pm it is part of the South Norwood Arts Festival, and takes place at the Centre which bears his name and perpetuates his memory, next to South Norwood Library at 194 Selhurst Rd, SE25 6XX.
William is already taking the world of music by storm. He is a leading violinist in the National Youth Orchestra, and has played at the Albert, Cadogan and Wigmore Halls, as well as in Salzburg Cathedral in Austria and in Barcelona. He was also chosen from 500 young musicians to play at "A celebration of Young Musical Talent" at the House of Commons last November, and has received special scholarships which have enabled him to study and play at both the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.
I am delighted that event organiser Bernard Winchester has arranged for William to play. Opportunities for young musicians to perform publicly are an important part of their growth in confidence and maturity. That is how the young Coleridge developed playing violin and singing in concerts before he went to the Royal College at the age of 15.
My mother nurtured young talent as a piano teacher, including Croydon's Fred Scott, who continues to do the same. Fred arranged for young pianists to perform the composer's music, write their own interpretations and improvise in jazz style, at events at Fairfield Halls as part last year's Festival dedicated to the composer. I am currently involved in a project in primary and secondary schools on the life of the composer. Pupils will be performing a drama and playing music at a special event at the Royal Court Theatre next week.
Celebrating one of its most famous celebrities is worth doing in itself within Croydon as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor opens up a window on to the way in which a man of African heritage could become a highly popular and a household name, whose most famous work Song of Hiawatha was a smash hit with choirs during his life time and an annual major hit at the Royal Albert Hall between the Wars and in the 1950s and early 1960s.
But his music is much richer and varied than many people might think. His orchestral and instrumental work is full of melody and feeling. Like so many by others in the genre his songs, however, do not reflect tastes of today. But he is worth celebrating because he also had three successful trips to the United States in a period when racism was still very much alive.
His death at the age of 37 was mourned by leading musicians of his day, and we lost the possibility of richer works if he had entered middle and old age.
Further details about the composer can be seen on the website of The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Network which I co-ordinate: https://sites.google.com/site/samuelcoleridgetaylornetwork.
Coleridge-Taylor. A Centenary Celebration by Jeff Green, published under my History & Social Action imprint will be available for sale at the Festival talk, and on the history stalls I am running at the Wandle Park Revival Day on Saturday 6 July, and the Fliok & Blues Festival on Saturday 13 July at Ruskin House.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. .