THIS year All Souls’ Amateur Operatic Society is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first stage performance – a concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
This performance, in May 1961, was followed by a concert version of The Gondoliers in January 1962.
And in May that year our first fully staged performance of The Mikado took place in All Souls’ Church Hall in Haley Hill, Halifax.
The society was founded in 1960 by a group of people at All Souls’ Church who were interested in singing and musical theatre.
They were enthusiastically encouraged by the vicar, the Rev John Walker, who not only helped with the organisation of the society but took part in many of its productions.
I well remember him enthusiastically chasing his leading lady around and over a sofa during one production.
However his prime mot- ivation was to bring together a group of people who would work, perform together and care for each other through this ecumenical church activity.
To this day we continue the ethos created by the founding group by starting and ending our business meetings with prayers, by including religious music in our programmes and by creating an atmosphere of fun, friendship and fellowship.
The success of his ideas and ideals was proven in July as we celebrated the society’s first performance 50 years ago with a concert in the now redundant All Souls’ Church.
Many people have made outstanding contributions to our society, particularly our joint presidents, Sheila Moulds and Arthur Talbot.
Sheila conducted the society for 47 years until retiring just three years ago and Arthur was chairman for many years, an outstanding performer on stage and a tireless worker for the society.
The society performed in All Souls’ Church Hall for many years, then at the Marlborough Hall in Crossley Street and now at the Playhouse. We are thrilled to have several times sold out at the Victoria Theatre in our series of concerts entitled Accent on Song, which we still perform annually, now at Square Chapel.
We originally performed Gilbert and Sullivan and later moved into operetta and are proud to have performed several local premieres, including La Vie Parisienne, Bluebeard, The Beggar Student and La Perichole.
That first fully staged performance of The Mikado in 1962 took place in All Souls’ Church Hall, across the road from the church.
The Courier reported that “the show ran a little uncertainly at first, blinked at the unfamiliar spotlights a little awkwardly and then with an upsurge of confidence both walked and ran with ease as it suddenly became at home on the stage”.
Also in the review of the first performance the critic said of Sheila: “Her tight musical direction dared even half a note to misbehave at its peril.” I can tell you from personal experience that for the next 47 years nothing changed!
Arthur played the Mikado and Margaret Tennant played Katisha. Sheila’s husband, Bob, played Nanki-Poo and Geoffrey Horsfield was in the chorus. All these people played a major part in establishing this society as a theatrical force in Halifax.
Altogether we are a group of around 80 people, of whom 40 or so are performing members. Although originally based at All Souls’ Church the society is now non-denominational but retains a Christian ethos and has made contributions to many local charities.
Although we try to fill as many roles as possible from our own membership open auditions continue to attract new members, singers, actors and helpers. We also aim to manufacture our own sets and our wardrobe tries to provide as many costumes as possible.
My wife, Theresa, joined the society in 1964 and I followed the year after, which means we jointly have a membership of this society of 93 years, a fact of which we are very proud.
The selection from The Mikado in July was followed by songs from My Fair Lady, which is our next show at Halifax Playhouse in March 2012.
l Roy Sykes joined All Souls’ Amateur Operatic Society in 1965 and is one of the longest serving members still appearing in the society’s shows. He lives at Westfield Drive, Lightcliffe.
All Souls’ Amateur Operatic Society productions 1962-2011
1962 The Mikado
1963 The Pirates of
1964 Trial by Jury and HMS
1965 The Gondoliers
1966 The Yeomen of the
1967 The Mikado
1969 La Vie Parisienne
1970 Princess Ida
1971 Die Fledermaus
1972 Trial by Jury and The
Pirates of Penzance
1973 The Gypsy Baron
1975 The Grand Duchess
1977 The Merry Widow
1978 The Yeomen of the
1979 The Count of
1980 The Gondoliers
1981 La Belle Helene
1982 Die Fledermaus
1983 Fiddler on the Roof
1984 La Vie Parisienne
1985 My Fair Lady
1987 La Perichole
1988 The Student Prince
1989 Orpheus in the
1990 The Grand Duchess
1991 The Beggar Student
1992 The Mikado
1993 The Merry Widow
1994 Princess Ida
1995 La Belle Helene
1996 Fiddler on the Roof
1997 Die Fledermaus
1998 The Yeomen of the
1999 The Count of
2001 Orpheus in the
2002 La Vie Parisienne
2003 The Merry Widow
2004 The Beggar Student
2005 The Gipsy Baron
2006 Die Fledermaus
2007 La Perichole
2008 La Belle Helene
2009 Fiddler on the Roof
2011 The Merry Widow