Samuel Coleridge-Taylor & Paul Laurence Dunbar
It was briefly noted here that Dunbar and Coleridge-Taylor had worked together to produce a few brilliant works. Their collaborative works are recognized as some of the best musical and artistic representations of the ‘black experience’, drawing from the direct, and even more-so indirect experiences with the struggles both found inspiration from.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African American Poets to receive national distinction. His parents were freed slaves from Kentucky and much of his earlier works drew from their stories on the plantation. Dunbar later went on to publish several Poem collections and a few of his poems were published in notable newspapers such as the New York Times.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a Sierra Leonean-British Composer, also known by some as the “African Mahler”. Coleridge-Taylor’s cantata ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’ was noted to be one of his greatest works, compared by some, only to the German Composer, George Handel’s ‘Messiah’. He went on to compose several works, which were greatly influenced not only by his Sierra Leonean ancestry, but also by the experiences of African Americans and their struggles for racial equality. In 1901, the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Society, a Choral Study club, was formed in Washington D.C. by about 200 African American composers.
In the 1890s during the peak of their respective achievements, both Dunbar and Coleridge-Taylor decided to work together to produce a collection of works, which they called “African Romances”. Dunbar wrote the lyrics,, while Coleridge-Taylor applied music to them. Some of these recitals included “Over the Hills” a Dunbar poem, and “Dream Lovers” crafted by Coleridge-Taylor. “Danse Negre”, one of the more popular of the recitals, was a poem of Dunbar’s that was made into an orchestral composition by Coleridge-Taylor.