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Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a mixed race English composer whose great success led to his nickname as the African Mahler. His parents never married and he was brought up in Croydon by his mother, maternal grandfather and uncle who was a professional musician. His uncle proved a great influence and Coleridge-Taylor studied composition at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford (where he was a contemporary of Holst and Vaughan Williams).

Coleridge-Taylor became an international sensation overnight when his choral work Hiawatha's Wedding Feast (1898) sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Unfortunately the composer sold his work outright for just 15 guineas and received no royalties from what became one of the most successful works of the Victorian era. The evident injustice of this situation contributed to the subsequent formation of the Performing Rights Society in 1914 with the aim of ensuring musicians were paid a fair price for their work.

His work is now held in high regard particularly by African Americans and has been championed by Malcolm Sargent. Several works of his works have since been discovered and published after his death and he is currently enjoying a long-overdue and much deserved resurgence of interest.

Charles Elford originally trained as an actor. His biographical novel, 'Black Mahler: The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Story' was published in 2008 and again in 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of Coleridge-Taylor's premature death at the age of 37. It dramatically recreates the life of a mixed-race English genius in a very white Victorian/Edwardian London. Elford hopes that Black Mahler will soon make it to the screen; his original vision for the work.

Time Out London