Cally the Monster Kitten (cally_tmk) wrote,
Cally the Monster Kitten

G&S revisited - a prologue to Harrogate

I'm currently sitting in a hotel room in Harrogate, reflecting on the interesting series of events that have led to me being here.

I was brought up with G&S, and light opera in general; my parents and grandparents were members of the local amateur operatic society in Witham, and I was fortunate in being taken to see many shows throughout my childhood. My dad had a fine bass voice, and sang around the house a lot, with the result that I picked up the words to "When a felon's not engaged in his employment" and "When all night long a chap remains" at a fairly early age, but was much less familiar with the female roles.

The other big G&S influence in my early life was my friend Hazel, who lived just up the road from me and was musically very gifted. I'm sure it was through her that I became familiar with such numbers as 'The sun whose rays are all ablaze', and the Judge's song from Trial by Jury. She was an excellent pianist, and at the age of just 17 ended up as one of the rehearsal accompanists for Witham Amateur Operatic Society's (WAOS) 1983 production of The Pirates of Penzance. I went along as her page turner, and thus got to see the production gradually taking shape under the expert direction of Derek Collins. It was really exciting to be involved - even very tangentially - in the process, and I became thoroughly steeped in the music. The following year I joined the props team for the Society's production of Free As Air (though somehow that hasn't left the same lasting impression), and then I was off to University and a world far removed from G&S.

Over the years, I've had periodic cravings for G&S, and have always been pleased to take advantage of the occasional opportunities that have presented themselves. I've managed to get John interested as well - so a few years ago we went  to see The Gondoliers in Sutton Coldfield, and a bit more recently the Birmingham Savoyards' production of The Grand Duke. But things really picked up again this year when, through a slightly curious set of coincidences, we ended up seeing 3 different productions of Pirates (Tinker's Farm, Birmingham, Trinity Methodist, Chelmsford, and the ENO live broadcast) in the space of a month. This really reignited my interest, and led to a series of interesting discoveries, including the WAOS archive (with programmes and photos going back to 1921 - quite a bit of my family history wrapped up in there, including adverts for my grandad's menswear shop, and seeing my mum's name change from Maureen Turner in Bless the Bride [1960] to Maureen Walford in The Quaker Girl [1963] - I gather my parents met through WAOS).

Online delvings in a different direction led me discover that there had been a G&S festival in Buxton for many years, and that there had been a group of people from around the world who got together annually to put on a performance at said festival. Both ideas seemed delightful, and I was bitterly disappointed at having missed out on seeing them, as the initial references I found only went up to around 2012. So you can imagine my joy! my rapture! on discovering that both the International G&S festival and Savoynet were very much alive and kicking.

I joined the Savoynet general discussion list, which has been most illuminating (though I'm still waiting for someone to notice the full degree of my ignorance and politely but firmly escort me to the exit), started workng my way through the archived OOTW articles, found Marc Shepherd's helpful discography, and marvelled that one can even find scans of early D'Oyly Carte prompt books and Sullivan's original autograph scores online. There's really no shortage of material to keep me going for quite a while!

And, of course, I booked up to come to the festival. The original plan was to come for 2 or 3 days, but there was always something that looked interesting on the next day, and we ended up booking for a week. So here we are in Harrogate, enjoying our first festival very much!
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