‘The man who writes tunes' : an assessment of the work of Eric Coates (1886-1957) and his role within the field of British light music
The light-music composer Eric Coates was one of the most successful and popular composers of the twentieth century. This thesis seeks to address how he achieved this status through the various media that were open to him. After a biographical and teleological discussion of Coates, light music, his position within this 'school' of composition and his views on light music this thesis discusses his relationship with the BBC. Looking at the BBC's policy towards light music shows how his music fitted into their broadcasting schedules and was tailor made for use as signature tunes. Concomitant to this was a mutual symbiosis, the BBC needed his music and Coates desired their promotion and performances of his music. Key BBC personnel were important in programming, obstructing, commenting and performing his music, especially Stanford Robinson and the BBC Theatre Orchestra. Coates' popularity was sealed by his legacy of gramophone records, though these contained frequent cuts, Coates' slender output was all of a high standard because of its sincerity, melody, countermelodies, orchestration, integration of dance bands and jazz music. Though he was alive to a compositional formula that governed light music, it was never creatively limiting, as demonstrated by an in-depth discussion of several pieces. Coates often appeared in newspapers as a minor celebrity and these interviews often drew in his latest compositions. Allied to this was the foundation of the Performing Right Society which enabled him to earn a comfortable living through his music. The final aspect of his career dealt with is the music festivals held at many seaside resorts and the BBC Light Music Festivals which gave Coates the chance to conduct with important luminaries and to produce new works. All these issues united to create a unique and well-loved composer.