Gavin Sutherland on the lives and loves of a composer
To say my tastes in music were inherited out of poverty would be totally unfair I had plenty of records to for my Regentone Dansette (still going some 33 years after it was purchased). Brass and military bands, popular classics, a few crooners, big bands, an occasional comedy number all sorts, in most formats, all biased to my father's taste as he bought nearly all of them.
As a nine-year-old trombonist, I was enrolled on a summer orchestral course in Chilton, County Durham. The course was packed with activity and we played William Mathias's Serenade, a lovely piece of light music, thankfully now available again on Marco Polo's Welsh light music album. A late addition to the music on the stand was a curiously dog-eared copy of the "Knightsbridge March" by Eric Coates. Curious, because I'd never played music from anything other than white paper and this stuff was a welcoming faun shade. It still gives me a thrill hearing this piece years later.
I had resolved to drag my father around JG Windows, a record shop in Newcastle, to find a copy on vinyl. A nine-year-old asking for a piece written 40 years before his birth must have been an unusual sight, but a sleeveless copy of the whole suite was in stock, alongside two movements from the "Four Ways" suite and the complete "Three Elizabeths" suite. Saturation techniques of listening being my strong point, I played and played it, transfixed by the beauty of sound, melody and orchestration.
When I got to university I resolved to find out more about Eric Coates, happening in the meantime on two books of great importance, "Suite in Four Movements", Eric's autobiography, and an additional biography called "In Town Tonight" by Geoffrey Self. Two fascinating books, but sadly very few new recordings of his work are available. I introduced this music and literature to my friend John Wilson and he was swept up by the clear enjoyment of the work by its performers. Later he redressed the balance by recording CDs on the ASV label to add to the 3 they had released of other new recordings of well-known and not-so-well-known work.