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Martins Bank Society of the Arts (Music Section) in Merrie England by Edward German

Staged: 4th December 1946 at the Crane Theatre Liverpool

War is over, and the return to normal life cannot come too soon for the budding actors singers and dancers amongst the staff of Martins Bank.  The Society of the Arts follows in the footsteps of previous groups within the Bank and its constituents.  So in 1946 the Music Section of Society of the Arts reprises one of the most loved productions of the former Bank of Liverpool and Martins Operatic Society, by staging “Merrie England”.  

On this occasion, the Society of the Arts is presenting the concert version of Merrie England, and the musicians and singers are together on stage at Liverpool’s Crane Theatre. In 1950 a full performance of this work with characters in costume will be performed.  At this early stage in the life of the Society of the Arts, Martins Bank Magazine does cover the three separate key activities - music, drama and art – however, it gives only a small amount of space to each.  Nevertheless, we do have the following piece from 1946 which provides the first written critiques of the Music Section’s performance of Merrie England, and this marks the beginning of what will become Martins Bank Operatic Society – an award-winning collaboration between talented members of the Bank’s Staff that will last until 1980…  

The presentation of the concert version of “Merrie England” (Edward German), at the Crane Theatre, on December 4th, 1946, represented the most ambitious venture yet undertaken by the Music Section. With a chorus numbering 46, supported by an orchestra of 18 players, almost the entire talent of the Section was assembled for the production, and members of the staff and their families showed their appreciation by attending in force, every seat being sold. As regards the performance itself, Miss Margaret Groome was outstandingly good. It is interest­ing to note that she has now resigned from the bank in order to be able to devote more time to her singing.   We wish her every success, which we feel she will attain with such a fine voice. Miss W. A. Weston gave a fine rendering of the ballad “She had a letter from her love” ; and Miss E. Koop displayed her usual talent in her song “O peaceful England”.  As Spencer Hayes sang “The English Rose”, the minds of some of the older ones among us were carried back to those far-off days a quarter of a century ago, when the old Bank of Liverpool and Martins Operatic Society first produced “Merrie England” and other operas.

1946 MBOS Merrie England  Musicians (2) - Beryl Creer MBA.jpg

The whole company (no individual names provided)

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Five of the original members of the old society were there. Miss E. M. Williams sang in the quintet, in one of the songs and in the finale to Part I. Mrs. Percy Jones (Mary Foster) sang in the quintet and also in the chorus. Spencer Hayes also sang in two of the other songs and a duet, and acted as chorus master. R. C. Eastwood sang in the chorus, and W. T. Wills played the 'cello. All except Mrs. Percy Jones were in the original cast of “Merrie England” when it was first performed by the Society. Evan Jones and Miss Delia Davies in their solos and also in their duet were wholly delightful. Mr. H. F. R. Boothman accompanied at the piano, and it is appropriate at this point to express our thanks to Mr. Percy Jones, our original accompanist years ago, who accompanied at many of the rehearsals and stood down in favour of a member of the staff on the night of the performance. R. F. Whitaker sang “The Yeomen of England” with Spencer Hayes, and also took pait in one of the quartets and a quintet. E. W. Gittins sang in a quartet, a quintet and in one of the songs. The duet " Come to Arcadie " by Miss P. M. Ritchie and A. Pope was nicely rendered, and the quartet " The sun in the heaven is high " was sung by A. Pope, L. C. Jones, R. C. Webster and H. F. L. Venn. Our conductor, F. M. Cruickshank, is to be congratulated on a very praiseworthy show.