The Gilbert and Sullivan Society : Manchester
Secretary's report of the year 2007/2008
We began this season with an extra meeting on September 25th when we took advantage of Sullivan's great, great nephew Scott Hayes being in England and speaking to the Sullivan Festival and invited him to talk to us a few days later. This was a very pleasant evening when he spoke about his family, descended from Arthur Sullivan's brother Fred, read letters from Arthur Sullivan and stressed how kind Arthur was and how well he looked after his brother's family. Afterwards there was time to chat individually to Scott and his wife Kitty. There was real thrill in meeting someone actually related to one of our heroes, added to which Scott has some of the charm and easy way with people that we understand Sir Arthur had.
The October meeting was originally to be an "up-and-coming" singer's concert by a star or stars of the future. We invited Rebecca Rudge, soprano, whom some of us had heard sing. To our delight she said that Donald Maxwell, her singing teacher and personal friend, had offered to come with her and perform for a similar fee to that we offered her. We would have thought that we could not afford him and that he would have no free time for a small event. With her clear soprano voice and his fine bass-baritone we were treated to a delightful concert of G&S and other songs. The accompanist was Duncan Glenday from the RNCM. Ray Walker noticed a Singalong Pirates was to be performed at Buxton Opera House for one evening only on November 6th, the very day on which we meet, and suggested that we make it our November meeting. Twenty members enjoyed this event, with professional principals and the audience as chorus. In the first half Linda Ormiston brushed up our knowledge of the choruses with skill and humour. After the interval the opera was performed with Linda, Donald Maxwell, Rebecca Rudge and Martin Lamb among the principals, and an amusing synopsis of the plot read by Donald replacing the dialogue. A dozen or more members met beforehand for a meal and it proved to be an enjoyable and rather different evening.
In December another fine bass-baritone, Bruce Graham, gave us a lovely evening of songs, both G&S and other, interspersed with tales of his performing life with the old and new D'Oyly Carte, Carl Rosa and other professional companies and some thoughts of what he particularly admired about Sullivan's music and Gilbert's wit and words. The January meeting was a social with contributions from members and delicious bring-and-share refreshments. Attendance is usually low in January, but those who were able to come thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
In February Paul Taylor gave us a most interesting Study Evening on Princess Ida. We appreciated how much work had gone into preparing it; excellent in content and presentation and we found it informative and enjoyable. We did indeed "soar to empyrean heights of every kind of lore, in search of Wisdom's pure delight".
The original plan for March was that members of Manchester University G&S Society, affectionately known as MUGSS, would present a concert, but in the end this was not possible as their production this year was at the end of April. At short notice Alasdair McCall, bass-baritone and Ella Kirkpatrick, soprano, both from the Royal Northern College of Music, accompanied by James Eastham, gave us an excellent concert of G&S and a variety of other music. Two more excellent voices, with excellent acting as well.
Lastly in April our vice-president and friend of many years, David Mackie, former repetiteur and assistant conductor with the original D'Oyly Carte, gave us a fascinating talk with much illustration at the piano about Sullivan's counterpoint melodies. We know the double choruses, but most of us had not noticed the many examples between singer and orchestra. This talk began with the history of the first uses of counterpoint.
In addition to our meetings of course we each receive three copies a year of what I consider an excellent magazine. And many of us also enjoy the delights of G&S and each others' company at various performances throughout the year, professional and amateur, including The Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Buxton. We were very sad that Liverpool Society had to close due to lack of members able to attend meetings. They used to be a very lively, active Society and we have always had a special relationship with them. We were pleased to welcome seven of them to membership of our Society and some of them joined London, but we knew that it was unlikely that any would be able to attend meetings, due to age and lack of mobility.
Paul will report in more detail on membership. Membership numbers may have stayed fairly steady, but attendance at meetings has declined over the past ten years, and from 37 average attendance two seasons ago to 28 this season. I am concerned about this; other "Branches" have dwindled and dwindled until they have to close because they cannot afford to put on meetings and are embarrassed to ask people to sing to an audience of a dozen or so. We really do need more members and ones who will be able to attend meetings. One of the best sources of recruitment has always been people bringing friends and I so urge everyone to think of anyone they know who would enjoy our meetings. Also to take more posters and leaflets to their local library and other venues. We are grateful to Alan Reiblein for creating and maintaining our website and keep hoping that it will bring in new members. Remember also, if you have to miss a meeting, you can look on the website for a short report and photos and the list of notices giving details of upcoming local performances. If you have not got your own home computer or a grandchild, nephew, niece, friend or neighbour remember there are some computers in every library. I feel sure that there are people around who would like to join but don't know about us.
So, in conclusion, I think we have all enjoyed the past season; our meetings are so good that we should share them with more enthusiasts.
Jean Dufty Secretary May 2008