The year 2000 was our 50th Anniversary year.

We celebrated it in style with a Gala concert at the Phoenix Theatre and a dinner dance at Brooksby, with entertainment provided by 'Fidgety Feet'. And to finish off our fantastic anniversary season, we recorded a CD.

The History of the Leicester Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society

The seeds of The Leicester Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society started in Blaby. During 1946 Miss Alice Hall had purchased a very large ex-Army Hut and donated the hut and the land so the residents of Blaby could use the building as a community centre, later nick-named The Blaby Hippodrome. Ron Elliott was trying to sell Alice Hall wood to repair and improve the Hut when she mentioned it might be a good idea to perform a bit of G & S to help raise funds and did he know anybody interested in that sort of thing? Ron and his life-long friend Bruce Freckingham knew G & S inside and out and offered their services.

This company performed four operas and following a performance of Iolanthe in 1949 the company was going to be disbanded. The producer of that production, Doris How thought it was a shame to lose an excellent company and her husband George, who was a member of the Old Wyggestonian Cricket Club, suggested the society could continue by performing at the Wyggestonian Boy's School with the profit going to the Cricket Club. The Gondoliers was performed in 1950 under the name of the Doris How's Company and that was the start of our present society.

During 1951 Deryck Marston had to obtain permission from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company to change our name to our present title as Gilbert & Sullivan was still under copyright which the D'Oyly Carte controlled. The Mikado was the opera that year and in 1952 the society transferred to The Little Theatre for all future productions.

1955 saw the first double bill of Trial and Pinafore but tragedy struck on the Thursday before the opening night when the stage and backstage areas were razed to the ground by fire. The Wyggeston Boys School came to our rescue and the show went ahead as planned, however there was another hitch when the Defendant from Trial was taken ill, although an understudy was just about to go on, the principal made a recovery just in time. Following the fire at the Little Theatre, there was no production the next year so the Society went on tour giving concerts at various venues including The Towers Hospital.

In 1957 Patience was performed at the Y.M.C.A and back to Dover Street for Ruddigore in 1958. Utopia Limited was performed by the Leicester Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society in 1960. This was the first production that century in Leicester and Leicestershire and has now been produced three times during our fifty years which must be almost a record for any Gilbert & Sullivan Society. A week before the opening of Princess Ida in 1961, Goff Abbott, who was playing King Gama collapsed and died eleven days later. Fortunately Charles Pole undertook to play the part with only three days notice.

At long last, The Sorcerer was performed in 1977 along with Captain Billy which we later recorded and in 1979 Radio Leicester broadcast the Saturday night performance of The Mikado live from the Little Theatre, a first for any local operatic society. When The Grand Duke was produced in 1981, we had completed all the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Although we have had our highs and lows we have enjoyed performing these great works of Gilbert and Sullivan and have donated almost forty five thousand pounds to various charities and very much hope to continue doing so for the next fifty years.

Written by Alan Freckingham
Taken from our 50th Anniversary programme

Our 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Venue: Brooksby Hall

Entertainment: Fidgety Feet


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Our 50th Anniversary Concert

Venue: The Phoenix Arts Theatre

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The President of the Leicester Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society, Mr John Florance (back centre), with our 50th Anniversary Celebration organisers (from back left: Alan Freckingham, Ian Ferguson, Carolyn Carvell, Elaine Baker, Debbie Lee)

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