Eric Coates: The Merrymakers
Subtitled ‘A Miniature Overture’, Eric Coates’ orchestral works The Merrymakers was completed in 1923. Originally called A New Year’s Overture, Coates changed the name to suit the personality and character of the piece. At the time of composition it is said that Coates was in a happy place, living in a flat at the top of his wife’s parents’ house. His view looked onto a beautiful tree-lined road where birds sang together all day and night. The Merrymakers is perhaps best-known for its exuberant and jubilant character.
Opening with a bold tutti statement from the orchestra, the music soon spirals into a peppy string motif. The quick melody flies through the strings, with the woodwind and percussion accompanying. The atmosphere is exciting and as the orchestra comes together to play the theme together, this only intensifies. Coates’ signature light style shines through in this piece as the melody is passed between different parts of the ensemble.
A slightly more lyrical version of the melody is then heard, which is again led by the strings. Whirling woodwind accompany the strings as the brass interject with loud statements. The central climax is led by the brass and results in them taking on the melody for some time. A reprise of the opening material is heard before a quick return of the lyrical central theme is also heard. As the orchestra unites for the final few chords of the piece, Coates makes sure that the atmosphere is still jubilant and celebratory.
Eric Coates’ The Merrymakers is a delightful miniature overture that exudes joyfulness. From the excited main theme to the lyrical middle section, The Merrymakers is always quintessential Coates.
Ⓒ Alex Burns