Tuesday 3th December 2013

"everything is interesting, tell us, tell us all about it!"

Derek Scott, Professor of Music at Leeds University, will entertain us about
'humorous devices in G&S'
from his knowledge of and enthusiasm for G&S.

A very entertaining speaker.


The Norman Beckett meeting.


Prof Derek Scott ‘Humorous devices in G&S’

This was one of those occasions when those well-seasoned G&S enthusiasts think they know all about Sullivan’s music and his style of composition. During the talk we found that many obvious pointers have gone over our heads.

Derek Scott has meticulously searched through the G&S canon of operas to find patterns of treatment that have become Sullivan’s hallmark. He has decided that there are two main comic styles which Sullivan adopted in his writing; the ‘Jerk’ and the ‘Wobble’ that is used alongside the comic subtleties of parody. The first style, the Jerk, is the choppy staccato effect that is familiar in the rhythm of “When this the medieval art’ (Patience), With wily brain’ (Utopia) and with accompanying syncopation in ‘If Saphir I choose to marry’ (Patience).

The second style, the Wobble, is far removed from the ‘word painting’ generally provided by opera composers. Sullivan writes more for the character and emotions that need to be expressed by the singer. The style is characterized by undulating/oscillating sections of three or four notes running up and down the scales. This is found in ‘Now is not this ridiculous’ (Patience) ‘When maiden loves’ (Yeomen), the patter songs.

Derek illustrated a number of other devices the composer uses, such as the subtlety of introducing a Diminished 7th or a Dominant 9th chord where it wouldn’t be expected. Many would take these twists unconsciously and accept the operas for what they are, but perhaps it is these latent facets, unique to Sullivan that make the Gilbert & Sullivan operas so special to the British public, even after 120 years.

Raymond J Walker
Picture Index

Meetings will be held in Cross Street Chapel, Cross Street, Manchester

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