Classical Piano | Luke Welch - Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Piano Works (Independent / May 5, 2023)

Classical Piano
Luke Welch - Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Piano Works
(Independent / May 5, 2023)

  • Check out Papillon, the first work/single released on Spotify [HERE]
  • Register for the FREE album release concert on May 5, 2023 at Array Music [HERE]
  • Presave the album and follow Luke Welch on Spotify [HERE]

Toronto pianist Luke Welch's upcoming release spotlighting the piano works of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, like many projects coming to light these days, began during the COVID lockdowns. 

Luke Welch

"Everything is sort of connected to COVID," Luke says. "What had happened, when COVID first hit and all my concerts were cancelled, I decided to start a concert series from my living room," he explains. 

His original intention was to cycle through a variety of composers - but he also, as many of us did at first, assumed that the pandemic would last a few weeks or months, and then things would go back to normal...

After about 8 months of online concerts, he was looking for new material to delve into. He had written a blog post about being a Black classical musician that had struck a chord with many of its readers. It led him to explore the field of Black classical composers

"I looked at Florence Price, Nathanial Dett," he says. He found mention of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in books, but very few recordings, and literally no reference material to work from.

"Even finding the actual original scores, it took me a year," he says, describing a process of hunting them down on the internet via eBay and random people who happened to have them, including some from the UK.

"It's just nowhere," he said. It led to a realization. "It's time to start promoting this guy," he says. It put him in an odd position as a performer of works that were hundreds of years old. "I'd never heard the music before I recorded it."

In 2023, Coleridge-Taylor's discography is actually growing. "We seem to have caught the right trend."

Black classical composers are only now beginning to get their due. Like his blog post, however, it's a topic that still sparks debate, including negative reactions. 

"I know in some ways, it's going to be helpful and educational."

Luke Welch

About Luke Welch

Award-winning pianist Luke Welch was born in Toronto, although he grew up just west in Mississauga. He had his first public performance under his belt at the age of seven, and began to study through a series of teachers, including Kyzysztof Jedrysik, Catherine Kuzeljevich, and John-Paul Bracey, before earning his BMus and MMus at Western University. He began his performing career after further graduate studies in Rotterdam, and has played on stages in North America, Europe and the UK, along with New Zealand. 

Along with his solo performances, Welch is a sought after collaborative pianist who has worked with a number of prominent companies, including Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT), Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, the Holland Dance Festival, Codarts Rotterdam Conservatory, Royal Conservatory of the Hague, Dutch National Ballet, and National Ballet of Canada.

His previous recordings have been aired on WQXR-FM in New York, KING-FM in Seattle, CBC Radio in Montreal, and Radio Classique, and he's also known as a (rival, haha) writer on classical music. He was the recipient of the 2018 Harry Herome Arts Award by the Black Business and Professional Association.

He also enjoys his work as a pedagogue, and has taught students in Canada and Europe. 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (from the album cover)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Piano Works

Taylor, who lived from 1875 to 1912, straddles the turn of the last century, and late Romanticism, with a unique compositional voice that blends various elements. The release includes pieces that represent various points in his career.

  • Scenes from an Imaginary Ballet, Op. 74 (1910)
  • Three Humoresques, Op. 31 (1897)
  • Intermezzo
  • Papillon
  • Valse Suite: "Three fours", Op. 71- 1909

Coleridge-Taylor considered himself an Anglo-African, and based his works on African melodies from various sources, all while writing in a then-contemporary classical vein. Many of his pieces, such as African Romances, Op. 17, and Ethiopia Saluting the Colours, march, Op. 51, reference those roots directly. In the Andantino of the Scenes from an Imaginary Ballet, for example, you can distinctly hear the influence of 20th century American music. 

Coleridge-Taylor traveled to North America three times. "Each time really significantly impacted him as a composer," Welch says.

While earlier works veer towards neoclassicism in some areas, the Valse Suite is sheer Romanticism in a range of emotions.

Welch's crisp, clear playing emphasizes the rhythmic nature of the music, and draws beauty from its movements. Welch says the Valse Suite, in particular, reminded him of the ballet classes he's worked with. 

"The biggest thing for me was to be really precise about the rhythms," Welch says. "The score is very precise about what he wants."

Coleridge-Taylor left a legacy of more than 80 works for piano, orchestra, and voice, along with ballet scores. Along with expressing himself via the musical modes of the day and create his own voice, Coleridge-Taylor also set himself the task of trying to preserve African American and African music through his work. 

"I think he was trying to do everything all at once," Welch notes. He speculates that the composer, who died young at the age of 37, may have been affected by burnout. 

While he didn't opt for standard forms like the sonata, his influences were nonetheless also to be found in classical canon. "He was very traditional in his compositional style," Welch notes. 

It's the blend of influences that makes him a unique voice of the late Romantic era. "I think that's what draws me to his music."

It also gave Welch a rare opportunity.

"The most enjoyable thing about this album was [...] that it's the first of its kind."

He'll be launching Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Piano Works with a concert and reception at Arraymusic in Toronto on May 5, 2023 at 7:00 pm.

  • The performance is FREE to the public - register for a place [HERE]
  • For those who can't make the party, there will be a livestream. 

Later in June, he's planning on a mini tour in Western Canada to support the album.