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John Coates (1865 - 1941)


John Coates was born into an extremely musical family, as a child singing in a church choir under his father’s direction. Having embarked on a career in business, he first appeared on stage as an amateur as Valentin/Faust (Gounod) with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. He then joined the D’Oyly Carte Company as a baritone in 1894, singing with it in London and on tour in the USA before leaving during the following year. He appeared in several Edwardian music comedies, before retiring and retraining as a tenor, advised by the singing teacher William Shakespeare. After appearing in light comedy in London during 1899 and 1900 he made his breakthrough as Claudio in Stanford’s opera Much Ado About Nothing at Covent Garden in 1901, followed by the title rôle in Gounod’s Faust.

Very soon Coates became the tenor soloist of choice on the British oratorio circuit, singing for instance Gerontius in Elgar’s oratorio The Dream of Gerontius in 1902 at Worcester and at Sheffield with the composer conducting. He took part in the first performances of the same composer’s The Apostles (1903) and The Kingdom (1906). His concert repertoire was large and included Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah and Belshazzar, Mendelssohn’s St Paul and Elijah and Saint-Saëns’s La terre promise.

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