Mystery surrounds trio of Coates manuscripts

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MYSTERY surrounds three manuscripts of early songs by world-famous Hucknall-born composer Eric Coates that have been presented to a group that helps keep his music alive.

The Hucknall-based Eric Coates Society has come into possession of the original scores. They were sent the coveted items by Ann Parsons, of Bere Ferrers, Devon, who wanted to find them ‘a good home’.

In an e-mail to the society, Ann said her mother acquired the songs with other sheet music. “I have had them since my mother died in 1990,” Ann added. “But I am not sure where she got them from.”

The songs pose a mystery because of an evidently close rapport the composer had at the time with two sisters, Sybil and Celia Welsh.

All three songs are for a mezzo-soprano voice. One of them, ‘Love’s Philosophy’, is dated Sunday August 26 1906 and is listed Opus 11 Number 3.

The much shorter ‘To A Maiden’ takes only just over one side of paper. Both were composed for and dedicated to Sybil and each says “To Sybil with love from Eric’. The lyrics for both were written by a man named Shelley.

Ann said the third song, ‘Tit For Tat’, with words by William Lyle, was her favourite of the three, which were all typical of compositions for that era. “The score is in the worst condition and I presume this is because, like me, someone else found it the most interesting,” she added.

“It has been hinged together with what looks like stamp paper and has red ink blots on the front.”

The song was composed expressly for and dedicated to Celia Welsh on Friday evening, September 14 1906 and it says: “To dear little Celia with best love from Eric April 11 1909.”

“The songs are by no means great works but to me they give an interesting insight into Eric Coates’ early compositions,” said Ann.

Family-history research has shown that Sybil and Celia were both born in Oxford in 1886 and 1895 respectively. They were living in Bournemouth at the time of a census in 1911.

Their father, James, was a Church of England clergyman and their mother, Maria, was described as a ‘lady of means’.

Photocopies of the songs have been taken to Hucknall Library and they will be bound at the society’s expense.

One copy will go to the society president, orchestra conductor John Wilson, for him to deposit in the Royal Academy of Music.

Society secretary Peter Butler said the songs were a ‘great find’.