Could have made a great section in Fantasia
September 23, 2019 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor -- African Suite: Danse nègre [6m24s] was composed in 1898, recorded here by Paul Freeman with the Chicago Symphony in 2000. While not African-American (he was English), Coleridge-Taylor toured the US multiple times and is perhaps the "father" of Black American Classical Music. This delightful little diversion serves as a good step into exploring classical music composed by African-Americans.

Hat tip to in278s for recommending a starting place in this thread for me to start listening to and posting music specifically by persons of color.
posted by hippybear (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He was a descendant of American Chattel Slavery. His father was the descendant of African-American slaves freed by the British and evacuated to Nova Scotia after the Revolutionary War, who eventually made it to Sierra Leone. His father then traveled to England. His mother was English.
posted by gryftir at 10:44 PM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thank you for reading more deeply thank I did. This helps me kick off this series of posts (not regularly, with no real plan) feeling a bit more honest about it. I'm on a journey of discovery and hope to carry some readers along with me.
posted by hippybear at 11:02 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not a composer, but an important and more recent person of note
Jame DePreist
posted by quazichimp at 1:42 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

hippybear, on your journey you may want to check out the pianist and composer Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins, (1849-1908), the first African-American to perform (in 1860) at the White House. Warning: his life story is heartbreaking.

(The first link goes to's blog, which is a great resource in general.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2019

Hmm, well while we're at it, don't forget Blind Boone--who seems to have partially modeled himself on Blind Tom:
Boone was born in a Federal militia camp near Miami, Missouri, May 17, 1864, to a contraband slave, Rachel, who used the surname, Boone, on the 1870 Federal Census. . . . At six months Boone fell ill to "brain fever" and to release the swelling of the brain a radical surgical procedure was performed, removing both of his eyes. This is how he became "blind" Boone. . .

Boone's mother, Rachel Boone Hendricks (when she married Harrison Hendricks in 1871, she used the Boone surname),[2] worried that her son would find life too difficult without some sort of education. Because of this, his hometown of Warrensburg decided to make sure that Boone received an education and paid for him to attend the St. Louis School for the Blind where he played the piano for first time. . . .

In 1879, Boone was "discovered" by Columbia, Missouri contractor, John B. Lange, Jr., who put Boone on the road, as Blind John. Only meager financial success was attained until Boone was boarded for two months at the home of George Sampson in Iowa. Mrs. Sampson was an accomplished pianist herself and taught Boone how to properly play the great European masters. It is said she taught him not only their minds, but their hearts as well. Upon his return to Iowa, Lange found his young protege had acquired much new skill, and with the addition of a vocalist, began billing as the Blind Boone Concert Company. . . .

Boone played thousands of concerts in the United States and Canada. After becoming one of the first black artists recorded by the QRS piano roll company in 1912, he played eleven selections while a machine punched the notes on the roll. Boone's ability to play many notes rapidly made it difficult to record him accurately. His best-known composition, “The Marshfield Tornado”, was never recorded or written down because it was too complex.

Between January 18, 1880 (his first concert) and 1913 John William Boone had given 7,200 concerts, traveled 144,000 miles (sometimes traveling 20 miles a day) slept in around 7,000 beds, and given $180,000 to charities, churches, halls, opera houses, etc.
- Blind Boone playing Camp Meeting #1 and Rag Melody #2 via Ampico Piano Roll

- Blind Boone playing When You and I were Young, Maggie, again via piano roll.

- Boone's Southern Rag Melody #2 "From the Flat Branch" arranged for piano, guitar, banjo and bass.
posted by flug at 8:43 PM on September 24, 2019

Thanks everyone for these gems--I've been trying to expand my classical repertoire and these are some incredibly exciting starting points. hippybear: excited to follow along on your journey (however intermittent) and much gratitude for getting this thread started; I'm already bouncing along to some Blind Boone!
posted by youarenothere at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2019

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