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Eric Coates

Eric Coates (27 August 1886 – 21 December 1957) was an English composer of light music and a viola player.

Eric Francis Harrison Coates was born in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire. His father was William Harrison Coates (d. 1935) who was a surgeon, and his mother was Mary Jane Gwynne, hailing from Usk in Monmouthshire. After studying at home with a governess, Eric enrolled (1906) at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received viola lessons from Lionel Tertis and studied composition with Frederick Corder. From 1910 he played in the Queen's Hall Orchestra under Henry J. Wood, becoming principal violist in 1912, "... which post I held for seven years," he said, speaking in a 1948 BBC radio interview, "until, I regret to say, I was dismissed through sending deputies to take my place when I was conducting my works elsewhere. Henry Wood little knew what a great help he had been to me by dispensing with my services, for from that day I never touched my viola again and was able to devote all my time to my writing."

In February 1913 he married Phyllis Marguerite Black (1894-1982). He had an early success with the overture The Merrymakers (1922), but more popular was the London Suite (1933). The last movement of this, "Knightsbridge", was used by the BBC to introduce its radio programme In Town Tonight. Amongst his early champions was Sir Edward Elgar.

Coates's autobiography, Suite in Four Movements, was published in 1953. He died in Chichester in 1957 aged 71, having suffered a stroke and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium. His son, Austin Coates (1922–1997), was a writer who lived much of his life in Asia.

Eric Coates was not related to Albert Coates, the contemporary conductor and composer.


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