“When I sat down to write this string quartet, I was not trying to write something Black, I was just writing out of my experience,” said Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) about his String Quartet No. 1, Calvary, which was performed by a string quartet of ASO musicians in September of 2020 at the Washington Lake Park Amphitheater in Sewell, NJ as part of a program to celebrate and explore the significant contributions to classical music by Black composers. Perkinson was a prodigious composer who spanned many genres including classical, jazz, pop, film, television and dance. He was briefly the pianist for Max Roach (one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time) and wrote arrangements for renowned artists including Harry Belafonte and Marvin Gaye.
Perkinson was born in Manhattan, New York to a talented pianist, organist, and theater director, and was named after Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), a well-respected biracial composer who received early support from Edward Elgar. While in high school, Perkinson won the High School for Music and Art Choral competition for his composition And Behold, and the LaGuardia Prize for Music while studying with Hugh Ross. Perkinson first sought a career in education at New York University before transferring to the Manhattan School of Music to pursue composition and conducting with Charles Millis, Vittorio Giannini and Jonel Perlea. It was during this time that his interest in jazz flourished. Perkinson was the co-founder of the Symphony of the New World (1965), where he conducted for five years. At the end of his career, Perkinson worked as teacher at Indiana University and coordinator of the Center for Black Music Research.
Violist Philip Payton gives a personal introduction to Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s String Quartet No. 1, Calvary to a live audience.
String Quartet No. 1, “Calvary”
III. Rondo: Allegro vivace
by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
Cyrus Beroukhim, violin
Philip Payton, violin
William Frampton, viola
Alberto Parrini, cello