Eric Coates (1886-1957) – Knightsbridge March (from “London Suite”)
Born of the pleasant, facile musical entertainments of Victorian parlours, bred in the bandstands of respectable sea-side resorts, matured in British concert halls where it happily complemented weightier fare, the elusive genre of British Light Music finally found its niche with the advent of the “wireless” in the 1920s.
Coates the light music composer gradually superseded Coates the orchestral violist. Early on he had a considerable “leg up” from the formidable Dame Ethel Smyth who dubbed him “the Man Who Writes Tunes”. I’m sure she was well aware of the magnitude of the compliment, which set Coates on the road to becoming “King of British Light Music”.
Ever since the Strausses penned their dancing ditties, light music composers have known the value of a catchy title, and of this corresponding, however tenuously, with the music. However, there was nothing tenuous in the case of the Knightsbridge March (1932), for which Coates deliberately drew on direct experience.
His bustling main theme is a portrait of the purposeful perambulations of the shoppers. Militaristic fanfares, plucked from this theme, at once reflect the transient regimentations of the milling crowds and mirror the real regiments of the nearby Horseguards’ barracks. If we fancy that Coates’s counter-subject represents the complementary cosy confidence of the “nation of shopkeepers”, then its pompous expansion in the coda would have to be pride in King and Empire. But, be this as it may (or may not be), it matters not – all that matters is that it’s such jolly good fun!
© Paul Serotsky, 2008
© Paul Serotsky
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