Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Eric Coates: Calling All Workers

Calling all Workers is one of the most recognizable of all of Eric Coates marches. This work, which was composed in 1940 was used as the signature tune for the once ubiquitous radio programme Music While you Work, which ran from 1940 to 1967.
The tune for this programme had been carefully chosen from a wide variety of pieces and was designed to cheer people up in the war factories and no doubt to increase the output by suggesting that the speed of the music ought to match their production! Philip Scowcroft reminds us that many people heard this March four times a day for five days a week!

Coates himself has written about this piece and suggested that during 1940 he had struck a ‘blank patch’ which lasted for some months. It had been a couple of years since he had composed the Enchanted Garden Ballet and the Footlights Concert Valse. He wrote in his Autobiography that it was his wife Phyllis who 'came to the rescue with the suggestion that I should write something especially for the Red Cross Depot whither she went daily to treadle her way with a sewing machine through miles of hospital supplies.' Coates told how the March was born - 'I sat me down at my desk in the window, looking far away across London to the twin-towers of the Crystal Palace…and wrote what Phyl still calls her signature tune.' Interestingly, they had some difficulty in coming up with a suitable title, and after a 'number of abortive efforts to find one, a gangster film with G-men tapping out the usual ‘calling all cars’ supplied the solution, and Calling all Workers it was. The March was dedicated ‘to all workers’ and carries the inscription “To go to one’s work with a glad heart and to do that work with earnestness and goodwill”'. The Manchester Guardian noted that the composer had ‘just finished’ the work in mid August.

Geoffrey Self wrote that the composer was so impressed with the title that 'unheard of security precautions were enforced, lest someone else use it.' The original score was engraved without a title: it was added at the very last moment.

Calling all Workers is  an example of a typical march in the style made famous by Elgar, Walton and Coates himself, although it is not of the ‘ceremonial’ genre and is generally a ‘light’ piece. After a short fanfare of C major chords, the opening march theme bursts on the scene at a foot tapping rate, but soon the slightly slower ‘trio’ theme in F major launches itself before the customary repeat. The march them returns at the exact halfway point and is preceded by another little fanfare. Of course there is a final reprise of the ‘big tune, this time played expansively in the tonic key and taken at a much slower pace. A reprise of the fanfare music as a part of the coda concludes the work.

The first broadcast of the work was by the B.B.C Theatre Orchestra conducted by Stanford Robinson from their wartime base in Cheltenham. In the autumn of 1940. Coates recalls that he and his wife “kept their fingers crossed” that an air-raid would not curtail the broadcast”.

The March was quickly recorded by Columbia (DB1945) with the Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer and was coupled with By a Sleepy Lagoon.

Listen to Eric Coates’s Calling all Workers on YouTube

No comments: