Thursday, 26 March 2009

Eric Coates: London Bridge March

I guess that many people who know and love Eric Coates’s Knightsbridge March from the London Suite will be unaware of the same composer’s London Bridge March. This march does not have the history: it was never associated with a long running radio programme like 'In Town Tonight'.

Geoffrey Self relates how, after the success of the London Every Day Suite, his publishers badgered him to come up with a suitable successor. Besides, it was at a time when music about London was popular. The listener need only think of pieces like Albert William Ketèlbey’s Cockney Suite, Haydn Wood’s London Cameos and even John Ireland’s London Overture.
So, in an attempt to continue his success Coates quickly wrote the London Bridge March -it was dedicated to Eric Maschwitz, who was at that time the BBC Director of Variety.
What is most interesting about this work was the enthusiastic anticipation with which the media gave to it. Both the ‘In Town Tonight’ team and the Pathé news group were present at the recording session at the Columbia Studios.
Geoffrey Self states that this March was never expected to be a match for the ever popular Knightsbridge. He suggests that 'It is hardly in the same class for its main theme is hopelessly tied to the word-rhythm of the title, and becomes monotonous because it cannot develop.' However he concedes that the tune of the ‘trio’ is “as fine as that of its predecessor, “to which it bears at least a family resemblance.”

In spite of some negative reviews, I enjoyed this March. Certainly, there is a sense of energy about this music that suggest the bustle of the both the bridge and the station. To be fair, it may not have the catchiness or the mass appeal of its more famous predecessor, but this is due to the fact that the work is not associated with any radio show or television programme.
Rob Barnett writes in his reviews of the Lyrita CD (see below) on MusicWeb International that 'We end with a bang from the cheeky London Bridge – irresistible for those impudently jaunty French Horns – naughty boys every one and once again just catch those Tchaikovskian fingerprints! And as the final pages heave in sight those rolling Sousa-style rowdy horns bring proceedings to an optimistic and red-faced conclusion'

And finally for a little feel of what London Bridge actually looked like some eight years before Coates March was composed, see the short extract from Friese-Greene ground breaking colour film on YouTube

The London Bridge March can be heard in a wind band version on Naxos or in the a fine performance by Barry Wordsworth and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Lyrita

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