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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » C » Coates, Eric



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Eric Coates (8/27/1886 - 12/23/1957)

Eric Coates was to become the greatest British composer of light music in the 20th century, though his education never looked to be leading him in that direction. He was born in the midlands of England, in the county of Nottinghamshire, in 1886. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, taking viola with the legendary Lionel Tertis, and composition with Frederick Corder. But it was as a violist that he earned his living, joining the famous Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Sir Henry Wood. From 1913 to 1919 he was principal viola, and a list of first British performances by that orchestra would indicate that he came into contact with all the most avant garde music of his day. Yet it was to be in the field of light music that he was to become famous.

It was the time of the radio, the BBC Light Programme with its demands for new music, and the need to brighten the country after the First World War, and above all it was the day of the ‘bright young thing’. It was the perfect scene for a composer who could produce a seemingly endless stream of easily memorable melodies. A publishing house commissioned him to write a major light music work for orchestra each year, while they were happy to take anything from him including his large output of songs.

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