This Autumn, James Hendry acted as professional MD for the tour of the National Gilbert and Sullivan Company and presented The Golden Legend with a student orchestra at Harrogate over the summer. Last year he presented Sullivan's Symphony in E and the In Memorium tone poem at Harrogate. Both events were of high calibre and appreciated by the audiences.
James gave a most interesting talk on Music student attitudes to G&S and what he personally finds attractive in Sullivan's music. A former student of the RNCM himself where he was MD for the Manchester Universities production of The Grand Duke, he shared his findings and beliefs. A former chorister and learning the piano from the age of eight, his performance at the keyboard was stunning.
Students today have not always heard of G&S and when they have there tends to be reserved judgement about the quality of Sullivan's writing until they are enlightened. It is fact that where G&S was often trotted out as the annual school production up to the 1950s in Britain it died and gave way to the contemporary school musical.
James came to G&S as a percussionist at the age of twelve and like many of us decided to explore other Savoy operas. Using examples from The Yeomen of the Guard, James' favourite opera, he was able to identify Cabaletta, Aria, Coloratura, double Choruses, and traditional forms of Recitative, all of which are found in grand opera and so the serious student singer is reassured of the classical foundation on which G&S is built. The coro-ensemble "A Nice Dilemma" has its foundation in Bellini's La Sonnambula and the two were compared at the keyboard. It took no convincing to discover that Sullivan's parody is the better written piece, where interesting 'turns' to the written key are used to add more colour.
This was a refreshing occasion for members to discover that G&S is alive and well with today's youth. Our local Universities society (MUGSS) started around the 1950s and presents a home-grown opera yearly and after 50 years is still going strong, building on better strengths of professionalism. This has to be due to the enthusiasm of James Hendry and his contemporaries.
Raymond J Walker