Life and career
Coles was born in Kirkcudbright, and educated at George Watson’s School, Edinburgh. In 1907 he went to the Royal College of Music on a scholarship. He later studied at Edinburgh University and Stuttgart Conservatory. On completion of his studies, he became assistant conductor to the Stuttgart Royal Opera and was organist of St. Katherine's, an English church in the city. He married Phoebe Relton, and returned to the UK in 1913. When war broke out, he joined the Queen Victoria's Rifles and became their bandmaster. While on active service, he sent manuscripts home to his friend Gustav Holst. He was killed by German sniper fire on the Western Front, while helping recover casualties. He was buried at Crouy.
Coles' work was "rediscovered" in a 2001 recording.
His music was used as the opening and closing title music for a documentary series entitled The First World War. The piece of music was Cortège, arranged by Orlando Gough. Cortège is one of the two surviving movements of a suite composed by Coles called Behind the Lines. Cortege also appears on Artists Rifles, an audiobook CD issued in 2004 featuring war poetry read by Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves, David Jones, Edgell Rickword and Lawrence Binyon, as well as music by Edward Elgar, George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maurice Ravel, Gustav Holst, Ivor Gurney, Ernest Moeran and Arthur Bliss.
- Intermezzo (1911)
- Rondo in A minor (1909)
- From the Scottish Highlands (suite) (1906–1907)
- Fra Giacomo (dramatic scena for baritone and orchestra, to a poem by Robert Williams Buchanan) (1914)
- Scherzo in A minor
- Overture: The Comedy of Errors
- Sorrowful Dance
- Behind the Lines
- Four Verlaine Songs
- Brief biography
- CWGC entry
- Hyperion website
- Channel 4 TV webpage for the series "The First World War"
- March, Ivan; Edward Greenfield; Robert Layton (2002). The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs Yearbook 2002/3, London, New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051530-5