Thursday, 31 January 2008

Eric Coates – Master of Light Music

I was asked by a more ‘intellectual’ musical friend the other day why I liked the music of Eric Coates.
I freely admit that this so-called ‘light music’ composer often moves me more than some of the more serious candidates including Beethoven himself. There is something deeply comforting about pieces such as the Merrymakers Overture and the Three Bears Fantasy. My mother would probably have said that it was the musical equivalent of nursery food – Ginger Sponge, Bread and Butter Pudding and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Nothing to do with the consistency of the mixture, I hasten to add – more to do with the 'feel good' factor!
As people get older they often look to the age of their infancy and see there a kind of Golden Age – a fairer and more pleasant land where everything was ‘decent and in order,’ when life was quite simply, simpler.
Eric Coates music takes me into a world of Routemaster buses, steam trains, seaside holidays at Morecambe and Hillman Minx cars. It is very easy to allow ones mind to drift down country lanes and linger at the edge of leaf fringed lakes. If I was honest I see this music in the same tones as 1950’s British Railway posters – a kind of idealised England. Yet it is the kind of England that I would really like to live in.

Someone once said that realism can realistically be a gas works in the East End of London or it can be the view from Box Hill in Surrey with your lover on your arm. Yet it is only a certain kind of mentality that insists that there is a greater artistic merit to the industrial as opposed to the pastoral.
Coates present the listener with a musical image that makes us feel better, reconnects us to our dreams and awakens the magic of England: and this can only be to the good.

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