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1958 HMS Pinafore
History was made this year when the first school opera was presented by pupils of the school. It proved a success in every way, thus laying a solid foundation for the future stage shows which will now undoubtedly be attempted.
From March, rehearsals were held almost every lunch-hour for various sections of the chorus while principals were trained separately by Mr. Graham. Night rehearsals were also held as the opening night grew nearer. Finally, after weeks of preparation, the opera was staged on four nights in August.
The talent shown by the principals was quite surpnsmg and some, according to various members of the audience, reached professional standard. Undoubtedly the star of the show was the “leading lady” John Bury, who played the part of Josephine extremely well (even although “her” voice was about to break). The part of the Admiral was played by Garnet Tregonning whose voice and stage manner suited the part completely. Fourteen-stone rugby forward, Peter Strang, played the part of Buttercup with much grace and charm, and Jack Welsh as Ralph Rackstraw and Eric Olssen as Captain Corcoran played their roles very ably. The villainy of Dick Deadeye was brought out to the full by Peter Mulqueen who suited the part admirably. The smaller parts of Boatswain’s Mate, Carpenter’s Mate, and Cousin Hebe were played with no less skill, and the chorus added much to the general effect.
Special reference must be made to the work of the scenery painters, who, together with the electricians, produced a particularly good stage effect. There are of course many others who deserve sincere thanks for their parts in making the opera a success, not the least of whom are Mr. Page, Mr. Graham, Michael McIntyre, and David Scott, who spent many hours training the cast and preparing music for the pianos.
Finally, we thank all others not mentioned above who helped in any way to make the light opera the success it undoubtedly was and we hope that “H.M.S. Pinafore” will be the first of many similar annual shows.
The video unfortunately has no sound track.
1959 “THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE.”
There is no doubt that the presentation of “Pinafore” in 1958 laid a solid foundation for School opera, for the School’s second attempt was well supported by the boys and proved in many ways to be an even bigger success.
The “Pirates of Penzance” is essentially a masculine opera, especially suited to a major Boys’ High School which should be able to supply the necessary soprano voices. It has contrasting features with songs ranging from the frivolity of “The Policemen’s Song” to the grandeur of ” Hail, Poetry ” and from the robust “Come, Friends who Plough the Sea” to the plaintive duet “Ah, 1;,eave Me not to Pine Alone.”
A rather late start was made this year towards the end of March and this necessitated frequent and intense practices for chorus and principals. The three sections of the chorus, Sopranos, Pirates and Police, were trained separately before school and during the lunch-hour by Mr. Haase while the dialogue and acting of the principals were in the capable hands of Mr. Graham. Night practices were again necessary in the second term and with hardly a day to spare the opera was ready for presentation on four nights in the last week of the second term.
The principals performed capably. Nervousness was quickly dispelled and many of them surprised and delighted their audiences with the manner in which they lived their parts. The part of the Major-General was played by Garnet Tregonning whose performance was an inspiration to the whole cast. He mastered the dignified but humorous role and his singing was at all times well-pitched and full of expression. The part of the Pirate King was played capably and enthusiastically by Bill Little whose fine bass voice was one of the highlights of the opera. Another very valuable voice was that of Neville Walker. His was the leading soprano role and he was indeed a charming and most convincing Mabel. The part of Frederic, the Pirate Apprentice, was played by Erik Olssen. His actmg and speech were extremely good though such a difficult range of songs would have tested many professional tenors. A first-class performance was given by Michael Andrewes in the role of Ruth, the elderly pirate maid. His singing was sound and his acting most realistic and brimful of merriment. That noble, resolute but, alas, timid band of warriors, the Police, were very capably led in mirth-making song and action by Ian Robertson, the Sergeant of Police. Heavily bearded and looking very much the pirate was Peter Strang as Samuel, the Lieutenant, playing a role in complete contrast to his earlier success as Buttercup. Other principals were Russell Tregonning and Maurice Jordan as Kate and Edith, two of Major-General Stanley’s daughters.
A word of praise must go to the chorus who practised hard and who bore much criticism from both producer and musical director. The choruses in harmony were difficult for some members but they gave colourful performances and sang effectively, in particular the robust pirate choruses and the ensemble work in the finales.
Thanks must ‘go to a number of people who helped to make the opera such an obvious success. The pianists, Roger Dunbar and David Strang worked hard, playing, preparing music and giving aid to the principals. Roger had the misfortune to break a wrist shortly before the first performance. We are grateful to Mrs. Ford who spent many hours preparing costumes, to Mr. Cessford and R. Rimmer for their work with the scenery, and to B. McKay and B. Muntz for their help with the staging. The School Band opened each night of the opera season with well-rehearsed selections from the opera and this was much appreciated by the audiences. Finally, thanks must go to the producer, Mr. Graham, and musical director, Mr. Haase, who worked with the cast from April till August and who so obviously enjoyed what they were doing.
The business side was handled by Mr. Familton and the proceeds from the four nights amounted to £120, a worthy contribution to the Gymnasium Appeal. Quite apart from this, the production must rank as a major event in the school year. It stimulated a. good deal of interest and a number of boys will, in future years; look back with pride and satisfaction on the part they played in it.
Our hopes are now for a successful performance in 1960 of the greatest of the Savoy Operas, “The Mikado”.
1960 The Mikado
For the third year in succession the School• has presented to the public a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. As a result over this period the life of the School has been well seasoned with these Savoy operas. While “The Mikado” lacks some of the virility of “Pinafore” and “The Pirates,” it has a charm of its own and is a great favourite with audiences in many parts of the world.
The selection and the training of principals and chorus began in March. Messrs. Graham and Haase again devoted a good deal of time to these exacting tasks. On his return from overseas, Mr. Page lost no time in giving valuable assistance to the principals.
Regular practices during the day were arranged from the start, and, in the second term, a night-practice was held every week. Special thanks are due to Michael Andrewes. It would be difficult to over-estimate the amount of time and energy he gave to this production with his capable handling of a difficult piano score.
After the usual last-minute rush with rehearsals, costumes and set, the opera was ready and was presented on four nights in the last week of the second term under the baton of Mr. Haase. On the two nights allocated to the general public, the hall was well filled as it was on seniors’ night; but it was disappoint¬ing that more juniors did not attend the Monday night performance.
It was to be expected that the standard attained by the cast would improve from year to year, and, as far as the principals were concerned, this was definitely the case. They were able to project the personalities of The Mikado in a most convincing manner, and their performances reflect much credit on their own efforts and on the guidance they received.
The awesome Mikado of Japan was played by Ian Burrow.
He sang and performed well, but would have done more justice to the part had he joined the cast earlier in the year.
The part of Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son, calls for a good¬quality tenor voice, a rare entity in any school. Ledlie Cleland’s voice was well-suited to the part and he proved to be a most adequate “Wandering Minstrel”.
The success of this opera hinges on the portrayal of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of the town of Titipu, In this role, Michael Andrewes was supremely good. Knowing every note and every word of his part (as well as most of the other parts), he added movement and vitality to an otherwise static stage. A bout of influenza left him with little energy and even less voice on the last two nights, but he performed nevertheless, coming through with flying colours and winning the admiration of all who saw him.
Another star was Russell Tregonning in the role of the pompous Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else. Since his performance in “The Pirates,” his voice has developed a steady bass quality. Much of the humour of the opera arose from the scenes involving Pooh-Bah and Ko-Ko.
Russell Purvis, in the role of Pish-Tush, a noble lord, was both keen and reliable, and made a valuable musical contribution.
A most convincing performance was given by Martin Harris in the role of Katisha, an elderly lady of the Mikado’s court, both in the intense finale of Act 1 which is dominated by Katisha and in the lighter scenes with Ko-Ko in Act 2.
Highlights of the show were the “ladies” who, with bright costuming and careful make-up, provided a breath-taking spectacle. Special praise must go to the “Three Little Maids from School “-Bruce Binnie as Yum-Yum, Ian Morrison as Peep¬Bo, and Murray Nicholls as Pitti-Sing. Their voices were small but sweet and clear, and their presence on stage was a delight to their audiences. It was noticeable too, that, after they had dispelled their nervousness and learnt their parts thoroughly, they frequently sang in tune.
Special mention should be made of the fine presentation of the trio in Act 1 “I am so Proud” and the four-part madrigal in Act 2 “Brightly Dawns our Wedding Day”.
Members of Chorus:
Ladies, A. Cuthbertson, B. Foote, J. Hogan, A. Jackson, L. Jones, M. Jordan, D. McCrea, A. Mc¬Lean, S. Marsh, R. Mitchell, A. Hannah, G. Raines, J. Saunders, R. Standage, B. Tregonning.
Gentlemen, M. Baker, D. Beatson, J. Benzoni, I. Campbell, R. Campbell, B. Deuchrass, J. Bury, W. McCarthy, J. McKinlay, T. McKinlay, W. Mason, M. Lindroos, B. Neilson, R. Rimmer.
The chorus supported the principals well and sang most effectively in the two finales and the scenes with the Mikado in Act 2. Most of them showed keenness and a willingness to work patiently and to attend as many practices as possible.