Words: Penny Fairs
One of Chesterfield’s foremost musical societies, founded 45 years ago, is returning to the Pomegranate Theatre in October to stage Iolanthe. Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society was formed in March 1971 with the aim of forming a Society dedicated to promoting and performing the works of William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. During its formative years, the group staged concerts to raise funds and after ten years, had amassed enough money to mount their first full G and S production, The Mikado, at the then Civic Theatre.
Two founder members of the Society, Val Crick and Peter Flint, performed in The Mikado all those years ago and will also be taking part in the 2016 production of Iolanthe. For them and the rest of their number, the appeal of G & S is in the appreciation of Gilbert’s wit and the challenge of singing Sullivan’s music in four part harmony music which compliments Gilbert’s words to perfection.
W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan worked together from the 1870s in partnership with the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte who built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 specifically for performances of their works. During their partnership of 25 years, 14 operas were produced making them the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice of their day. The high quality of both the libretto and the music is the major factor in explaining why their works have stood the test of time and remain popular today.
Chesterfield G and S Society have performed the majority of the Savoy operas at least once at the Pomegranate Theatre over the last 30 years. Iolanthe pokes fun at the political and legal establishment of the day and in view of the current political situation, audiences can expect some topical references. Director Nic Wilson has also drawn on Tony Blair’s fairly recent lively encounter with members of the WI for inspiration this year.
Iolanthe opens with the fairies missing their friend who was banished 25 years earlier for disobeying fairy laws and is now living at the bottom of a stream. They persuade the Fairy Queen to recall Iolanthe from exile and learn that she has a son, Strephon, who is in love with Phyllis, the ward of the Lord Chancellor. Unfortunately for Strephon, the Lord Chancellor and the entire House of Peers also have designs on Phyllis and resolve to thwart his marriage plans. However, the fairies have other ideas and, in a stance against the aristocracy, propose Strephon as an MP which results in unexpected outcomes for many.
With its stirring overture, wonderful melodies including the Nightmare song and The Peers’ Chorus, and a cast which features an unusual guardsman, ladies who never grow old and a prospective Member of Parliament who is half a fairy, Iolanthe is not to be missed!
Over thirty people will appear on stage and many of the principal performers are well known to local audiences. Stephen Godward who directed the Society’s 2015 production will be taking the part of the Lord Chancellor, Julie Currey is Iolanthe, two former members of the Society’s Youth Academy, Laura Watkin and Nathan Blood, appear as Phyllis and Strephon and Judith Hill is the indomitable Fairy Queen..
For Andrew Marples, the Society’s fourth Musical Director, Iolanthe will be his 17th stage production. He will be directing a full orchestra comprising local musicians in addition to the singers on stage, aided by the Society’s talented accompanist, Chris Flint, who also features in the orchestra.
Photo: Courtesy of Albert Thomas