Footlights Waltz was composed in the early part of 1939 however, the original title of the piece was apparently Behind the Footlights. The first broadcast performance was given by the BBC Orchestra conducted by the composer on 9 June of the same year. The Times newspaper mentions this radio concert in its ‘broadcast’ page – alongside a reference to a commentary on the Richmond Horse Show and a reconstruction of the trial of the Glasgow Cotton Spinners in 1838. The relay was at 6pm and followed Children’s Hour which featured E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet.
Earlier in 1939 Eric Coates and his family had moved from Chiltern Court to Berkeley Court – as Geoffrey Self puts it, from one side of Baker Street to the other. At that time Coates son had recently left Stowe School and was studying in Paris. It was also a time when the composer ‘took up his journalistic pen’ and wrote a letter to the Evening News decrying the prejudice against so-called light music.
Recent work by the composer had included the ballet The Enchanted Garden, the Seven Seas March and the three songs to texts by Christopher Hassall, 'You are my Rose', 'Your Name' and Princess of the Dawn. The romance Last Love was to follow.
Footlights Waltz is the third of only three concert waltzes that the composer wrote: the other two are Sweet Seventeen and Dancing Night. It is possibly the most successful.
After an opening flourish on a pedal notes which hints at tunes to be presented in the main waltz the music opens with a characteristic ‘tempo di valse allegro. However this music is soon pushed out of the way by a succession of short sections carrying on the interest of the music. There is a lovely cantabile melody which is typically 'Coatesian'. After a short Bridge passage the composer represents three of the most important themes. The work closes with an attractive coda which recalls one of the less important themes of the work.
This piece was surely a wistful reflection on Coates time working in the theatre. Rob Barnett on MusicWeb International has deemed it ‘dreamy, silvery and conveys that floating effortlessness so typical of the Coates magic’.
Footlights Waltz can be heard on number of CDs including Marco Polo 8.223521 and Lyrita SRCD213