Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Partsongs

Amidst the explosion of choral writing in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s contribution to the all-important genre of the partsong has long remained underappreciated.

The Choir of King’s College London explore a selection of vivid settings of Romantic poetry from Britain and America, full of rich harmonies and poetic sensibility, inspired by subjects ranging from the exquisite beauty of nature to the Victorian fascination with death.

Featuring no fewer than seven premiere recordings in characteristically committed performances from Joseph Fort’s singers, this album adds another piece to the jigsaw portrait of a composer who was a household name in his day and is once more coming into his own.

"Beautifully crafted works for chamber choir, full of drama and passion ... "

"One of the part songs from this tremendously well-presented programme is titled Isle of Beauty, which could be the tagline for the disc. Showcasing the superb compositional writing of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who died from pneumonia all too young, aged 37, Joseph Fort’s university choir is stunning; the balance between voices, the dynamics, and the way they nuance each song, capturing the beauty of the genre as well as the sentiment of the words, are outstanding ... One can hear the influence of Stanford, in whom, according to Jonathan Clinch, Coleridge-Taylor found not only a dedicated teacher but also one who was equally invested in reconciling elements of his own (Irish) cultural heritage into classical forms, not unlike the latter's assimilation of African melodic features. The choir is marvellous, performing 46 minutes of a cappella-controlled singing superbly well; the lower voices are resonant, and the upper voices soar beautifully, all performing with poise, especially in The Fair of Almachara with its 'arresting fanfare,' as Clinch so aptly writes in his splendid notes, a vivid sonic evocation of an evening spent at a country fair in Málaga. This disc is an excellent introduction to a set of attractive part songs, wonderful poetry, Coleridge-Taylor and an impressive choir, that delivers singing of sublime and exquisite beauty"

read the full review here

"Lyrical beauty suffused with a wild, romantic spirit. The superb singing made my heart soar ..."


"It is music of its time, conjuring up wood-panelled drawing rooms and draughty public halls. Undeniably sentimental and nostalgic, it also has a harmonic warmth and singability that saves the day ... The Choir of King's College London's singing is committed and driven by forward momentum, in the faster items like “The Lee Shore”, effectively sandwiched between two more ethereal numbers. The choir, led well by Joseph Fort, is good in both modes, unafraid to show a bit of gusto, but also happy to wallow where wallowing is right ... KCL switch from mood to mood on a sixpence – it becomes a mini-opera, and a gripping one ... Aside from the performances and the top-notch production (Paul Baxter for Delphian), the CD design is beautiful, and includes full texts, and the liner notes are extensive and illuminating ..."

"The British-Sierra Leonean composer is however gladly no longer defined just by this trilogy of choral works, and this appealing album shines a light on his outstanding contribution to the partsong. These works may bear the hallmark of Coleridge-Taylor’s time at the Royal College of Music studying with the doyen of English church music, Charles Villiers Stanford, but they have a depth and drama all of their own and are well presented here by the Choir of King’s College, London under the skilful direction of Joseph Fort ... The album’s highlight is without doubt the opening track, ‘Sea Drift’. This terrifically vivid setting of Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s poem tells of a ghostly form who stands on the shore ‘in the lightning’s glare’ as the sea foams around her. Divided into eight parts, the choir lives every twist and turn of this exhilarating piece to produce a genuinely thrilling performance. The quicker, more characterful songs included are also well executed, notably the crisp and delicate ‘The Sea Shell’ and the fiercely dramatic ‘The Lee Shore’, which offers another stirring portrayal of stormy waters ... this well-recorded album features some commendable singing and offers a welcome celebration of a still under-sung composer"

Release Date: 13 october 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34271
Total playing time: 46:38

Recorded on 24-26 February 2023 in All Hallows’, Gospel Oak
Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: Henry Howard

Cover image: Siobhan Louise Riordan, Portrait of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 2018, © Siobhan Louise Riordan

Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com

Delphian Records Ltd – Edinburgh – UK www.delphianrecords.com



1. Sea Drift


Coleridge-Taylor's gripping The Lee Shore, filmed during recording sessions in All Hallow's, Gospel Oak ...

Album Booklet

You may also like ...