Martins Bank Society of the Arts (Music Section) in The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan

Staged: 21st to 25th February 1956 at the Crane Theatre Liverpool

Performing now for the last time as the “Music Section of the Society of the Arts”, Martins Bank’s burgeoning Operatic Society goes from strength to strength and stages a lavish production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” at the beginning of 1956. Be prepared for “little thrills to go up your spine” as you swoon to the voice of the Pirate King. Plenty of swash and a fair degree of buckle ensure that a good time is had by all, including groups of children from several local schools. Everything seems to be coming together for our band of players; a well stocked male chorus, some good leading voices and a commitment from  involved, both on and offstage ensures another success.

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As we shall see below in a moment, Martins Bank Magazine has a lot to say in its article covering “Pirates of Penzance” heaping praise upon just about everyone. It is pleasing to note that after ten years of extremely hard work, the Society of the Arts has really made its mark on the cultural life of so many employees of Martins Bank. With the music and drama groups in Liverpool, and the drama groups in London and Newcastle upon Tyne, we can look forward to at least another decade of fantastic performances…

FOR their annual show the Music Section of the Society of the Arts this year chose “The Pirates of Penzance”, which they presented for five nights at the Crane Theatre from February 21st to 25th. The choice proved a popular one and for the very first time there were full houses on each night and we were pleased to see parties of children from various schools amongst our audiences on the different nights, one having travelled from Newton-le-Willows. We are pleased to record that, taken as a whole, there was no reason to feel anything other than pride in the standard of the production. The female chorus was young, fresh and altogether delightful and from a musical point of view it achieved the highest standard of precision and timing we have yet witnessed in one of our shows.


Chorus of the daughters of Major-General Stanley

The male chorus was as strong and melodious as one could wish. An amateur show which can boast of three outstanding principals is in quite a happy position, but they couldn't just manage this time to raise a leading tenor and we are indebted to Gerard Martin who took the part of the pirate apprentice: a serious and acceptable portrayal, nicely sung. The stars were Mary Nelson and Valeric Parish as Mabel and Edith, two of General Stanley's daughters and William Morris. Mary's singing has never been better and the type of song - “Poor, wandering one . . .”, “Ah, leave me not alone…” suited her style, personality and range of voice perfectly. Valerie's lovely contralto is adequately matched by her histrionic ability and her sense of theatre was excellent throughout.

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General Stanley (Don Gilroy) and his daughters – Brenda Aked

Mary Nelson Valerie Parish and Pamela Rooke

William Morris and Phyllis Ritchie as the Pirate King

and the pirate maid-of-all-work

She never forgot to act even when she was not the centre of attention, and her every movement was graceful. William Morris made about the best Pirate King we have seen and he has a voice which, as one girl put it. “sends little thrills up my spine”.  These three were supremely good throughout. The part of Major-General Stanley was taken by Don Gilroy, a formidable undertaking for someone who has not previously acted a principal role. Don was very nervous on the first night, but as he gained confidence his portrayal rapidly improved and by the end of the show he was doing very well indeed. We shall look forward to seeing and hearing him again. Phyllis Ritchie portrayed the pirate maid-of-all-work with plenty of spirit: she was at her best in her passages with the Pirate King. Frank Green took the part of the Sergeant of Police and earned his full quota of laughs in this up­roarious part which he burlesqued in the accepted tradition

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Chorus of Policemen – Frank Green on the left

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Mary Nelson and Gerard Martin (pirate apprentice)

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Pamela Rooke and Brenda Aked played the parts of Kate and Isabel, the other two daughters of Major-General Stanley. They looked as pretty as a picture and played their parts and sang de­lightfully.  E. W. Gittins, very effectively disguised by a magnificent, not to say monstrous, red beard, played the part of Samuel, the Pirate King's Lieutenant. He was second only to his chief in formidability! The Musical Director, Basil A. Williams, is to be congratu­lated on a very fine musical accomplishment and the producer, J. Balfour Thompson, who, surprisingly enough did not have his heart broken the last time he produced for us, must feel as satisfied as any producer ever does or ever can feel with the result of his efforts. If he was as pleased as we were everyone is happy. The team spirit was excellent throughout.  The orchestra, which did a splendid job, performed a selection of music from Pineapple Poll. A clever adaptation of Sullivan's music to the ballet of that name, by the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, as a prelude to the opera itself. Pineapple Poll is now a favourite in the repertoire of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. We are glad to say that during the past twelve months we have largely succeeded in over­coming our male chorus shortage and the number of outside friends who helped us out this year was one third of the total as against four-fifths last year. We thank them very much indeed for the ready way in which they have helped us and for their contribution to the success of the production. Mention is often overlooked of the people who are not seen at these productions.

We are quite sure that no one unconnected with the production of an opera realises the huge number of people involved. To all those mentioned on the programme and to that greater number who are not we say thank you. You did a grand job


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