On June 4, 1912, famed American violinist Maud Powell (1867–1920) premiered the Violin Concerto in G by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912), a work commissioned for Powell by Carl Stoeckel and his wife Ellen Battell, founders of what is today known as the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. As an encore number after the premiere of the concerto that day, Powell performed the premiere of a short concert piece by Coleridge-Taylor, which was originally commissioned as the second movement of the Concerto. This was Coleridge-Taylor's "Keep Me From Sinkin' Down," based on the African-American spiritual of the same name. Coleridge-Taylor gave ownership of the piece to Stoeckel, and a little less than three months later, the composer, just 37, died suddenly in his home in Croydon, near London. The copyist's manuscript of the orchestra parts used in that first performance have been stored in a box in the archives of Yale University's Irving S. Gilmore Music Library ever since, pretty much forgotten, until recently.
For this recording, Longfellow Chorus Artistic Director Charles Kaufmann has put together a full score from two sources: 1) from the original orchestra parts and 2) from a manuscript full score found in the archives of the Library of the Royal College of Music in London. This is the first time this piece has been recorded, and one of the few times the piece has been performed since its premiere in 1912. This recording was made onstage in the Music Shed of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival one hundred years to the day and, perhaps, even to the hour and minute of that first performance by Maud Powell on June 4, 1912.
A filming of the historic recreation of the premiere of "Keep Me From Sinkin' Down" can be seen in the documentary, "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his music in America, 1900–1912," due for release by The Longfellow Chorus in March 2013.