You are here

17th-Century Events, 20th-Century Music

17th-Century Events, 20th-Century Music

Linda Robbins Coleman is a native of Des Moines, Iowa. A Drake University graduate, Coleman was Composer-in-Residence for Drake Theatre, scoring 35 plays ranging from the ancient Greeks to the moderns from 1977-1997. An accomplished pianist, Coleman has been performing since the age of 6 and worked professionally as a jazz and classical soloist and collaborative pianist. Coleman is a published poet and writer, and for four decades she served as collaborator, research associate, and editor with Professor William S. E. Coleman.

Linda Robbins Coleman was commissioned by the Cedar Rapids Symphony (now known as Orchestra Iowa) to write this overture in 1989, and it premiered in 1995. She aimed to capture the spirit of George Bernard Shaw’s 1939 play by the same name. Shaw’s play took place in the English court during the reign of Charles II of England (1660-1685). In the play, the issues of nature, science, power, and leadership are debated between four men: King Charles II; physicist Sir Isaac Newton; English dissenter and founder of the Quakers George Fox; and the portrait artist Godfrey Kneller. There are also interventions by three of the king's mistresses, and the second act involves Charles in conversation with his queen, Catherine of Braganza.  

To capture the spirit of the play, Coleman made important creative decisions. “First, to evoke a sense of the late 17th century, I felt the use of a harpsichord was mandatory. Since the play veered into 20th-century ideas, including quantum physics, I wanted to include modern musical ideas as well.” Rebecca Lindwall of the Cedar Rapids Gazette said, “The piece is a delicious blend of crisp colors and lovely lyricism. The piece is as vivacious as its composer...”. Since its premiere, the symphonic overture has been performed and broadcast more than a hundred times in the United States and abroad.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 and with the planned Coronation of King Charles III in May 2023, interest in the overture has increased. Because after all, according to Coleman, “The king in the play and King Charles III are connected by history, lineage, and name. This symphonic overture is a most appropriate way to celebrate the ascension and reign of King Charles III.”