This concert celebrates the fact that the society is 70 years old this year, having first seen the light of day in December 1947 with a production of HMS Pinafore at Bournemouth Town Hall. For a great part of that time the late Edna Tice was its doyenne, and she firmly believed that concerts ‘are our shop window’, meaning that they had to be so good that audiences would be keen to buy tickets for the main annual production later that year. Unfortunately, it might have been better if the blind had been down on this particular shop window, because although the evening had its high spots, it was far from being one of this usually superb society’s better offerings.
The ‘highlights and finales’ came from just four of the operas: The Gondoliers, The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and Iolanthe, yet it was soon evident that on too many occasions words were proving elusive for some people, both within the chorus and among soloists, and there were also a few ragged beginnings and endings. I found this particularly surprising given that a high proportion of those on stage have been with the society for quite a few years so should know their G&S inside out; ironically, it was the newer members who didn’t seem to slip up at all.
However, it was also clear that the society has more than a few excellent singers who can really put over their numbers well, and in the Gondoliers section I was particularly impressed with ‘Buon giorno’ (Richard Moore and David Robertson), ‘On the day when I was wedded’ (Amanda King) and ‘Kind sir you cannot have the heart’ (Eleanor Riley). Highlights from Pirates included Camilla Foster Mitchell’s ‘Poor wand’ring one’ and David Robinson’s ‘Modern major-general’, Pinafore gave us Fiona Aucott’s ‘Sorry her lot’ and Robin Lavies’s ‘When I was a lad’, while Mike Griffiths clearly relished his two bites of the cherry in the Iolanthe section with the sentry’s song and ‘When Britain really ruled the waves’. And of course, the four act 1 finales, plus other numbers, gave the chorus their chance to shine and they seized the opportunity with gusto.
Finally, a gold star apiece for narrators Robin Lavies and Gillian Linford for filling in just the right amount of detail to give the non G&S buffs some clue as to what was going on.
You can catch Highlights and Finales on 22 April at The Hub, Verwood, and on 7 May at the Shelley Theatre, Boscombe, both at 7.30 pm.