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

Staged: 12th 13th 19th and 20th March 1948 at the David Lewis theatre Liverpool

That’s the way to do it! The Society of the Arts manages the near impossible by almost filling a two thousand-seater theatre for its production of “The Gondoliers”.  A popular choice (the society will stage it again in 1955), this opera has it all – songs that the audience knows and can sing along can turn an ordinary performance into a smash hit.  The sheer size of this production means a shortage of Martins Bank Staff to take part in it, and some musicians are drafted in from outside the Bank. By the 1960s, the Operatic Society will stage ever more lavish shows, and in order to compete with other groups in the area, they will need to call upon professional musicians and local singers who are not on the staff of the Bank. For this production of The Gondoliers, three singers are brought in from rivals Lloyds Bank, District Bank and the National Provincial Bank!  Our coverage of this production comes as usual from Martins Bank Magazine, and we are also pleased to have some of the original photographs from the Archive of the late Beryl Creer, who as Beryl Evans, is mentioned in the article below for her skilled dance moves!  The Music Section of the society of the Arts can be justifiably proud of “The Gondoliers”, performed over two separate runs of two nights each in March 1948…

1946 02.jpgLet it be said at the outset that the Society's production of “The Gondoliers” at the David Lewis Theatre, Liverpool, on March 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th, was as good as an amateur production of one of the D'Oyly Carte operas ever will be. By that is meant that it was a production of which the Society could well be proud, and to sell 1,800 out of 2,000 seats in a city which receives an annual visit from the professional company was in itself a testimony to the standing of the Society. An amateur company which has the temerity to play a Savoy Opera in a city like Liverpool must expect comparisons, as so many members of the audience are Gilbert and Sullivan fans and know the musical numbers backwards. A high standard of performance is looked for and even on the professional stage there are many people who think that there will never be another Lytton, Sheffield or Bertha Lewis.

1948 MBOS The Gondoliers 1 David Lewis Theatre Liverpool - Beryl Creer MBA.jpg

The whole company (no individual names provided)

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections – Beryl Creer

The Society had to rely upon the help of outside friends to augment the strength of the male chorus and in this connection, it is interesting to note that three members were from Lloyds, the District and the National Provincial Banks respectively. It is appropriate to place on record our appreciation of the services of these friends and also of the services of our friends in the orchestra, which with the exception of the accompanists, was recruited from outside the Bank. With regard to the principals, the Society is greatly indebted to Mr. Edward Edwards who stepped into the breach at the last moment and took over the part of the Duke of Plaza-Toro when our own candidate unfortunately retired. He played the part very well indeed, his agility and his acting being of a high order. The outstanding female performance was that of Margaret Groome, who played the part of Gianetta. Margaret's standard is professional and her beautiful voice and attractive personality received their due recognition at every performance.

1948 MBOS The Gondoliers 2 David Lewis Theatre Liverpool - Beryl Creer MBA.jpg

The whole company (no individual names provided)

Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections – Beryl Creer

The outstanding male performance was that of John Barlow, whose strong tenor was matched with clearness of enunciation all the more marked because of the prevailing absence of clear-cut distinctness on the part of a number of other singers. The part of the Duchess was taken by Eugenie Koop, who gave a spirited performance, which was wholly creditable in view of her almost continual indisposition during rehearsals. Frank Green certainly looked his part of the Grand Inquisitor : his lines and songs came over well, but he did not portray it as a funny part, the result being a performance which was good but not Sparkling. Mary Nelson as Casilda sang sweetly and clearly and made an altogether charming ducal daughter. A little more power in her singing would not have come amiss and, in more marked degree the same comment applies to Alfred Pope who took the of Luiz. His voice, though pleasing, lacked power and he tended to be indistinct both in speech and song. Reg Webster made a good Giuseppe, his part coming over best when he was near the front of the stage.


Frank Green

At other times he tended to be indistinct, acting of the part made up for this shortcoming. Betty Spencer Hayes gave us one of the best bits of acting in the opera. Her contralto voice, especially in the lower notes, however, lacked the power needed to carry it to distant parts of the theatre. A special word of commendation is due to Phyllis Ritchie for her very bright interpretation of her role as one of the contadine.

Her acting was most pleasant to watch. To Gwen R. Boothman, also, for her interpretation of Inez, must be handed a bouquet. She was beautifully clear in her song, her voice was rich, and her acting restrained and dignified. The chorus was quite pleasing, the tone being sweet though somewhat lacking in volume. Special mention must be made of Beryl Evans for her most graceful rendering of the different steps, and especially of the Cachuca. The Musical Director was H. Spencer Hayes and the Producer was Denis Costello.

Mary Nelson and Alfred Pope

The partner­ship of these two gentlemen was a happy one and to them belongs the credit for the undoubted success of the most ambitious production yet undertaken by the Music Section.It was a kindly thought of the organisers to invite members of the nursing staffs of five of the Liverpool hospitals to their performance on the opening night. In writing to offer his congratulations to the Society the Chief General Manager said :— “I was frankly amazed by the excellence of the performance and realise what a vast amount of work this effort must have entailed”. To celebrate the successful run of “The Gondoliers” the Music Section held a party in the Staff Restaurant, Head Office, on Monday, March 22nd. If the long series of rehearsals which had their climax in the performance at the David Lewis Theatre were good for the social and cultural side of the work of the Society the party which followed provided excellent and hilarious relaxation.


R C Webster Betty Spencer Hayes Margaret Groome and J Barlow

Everyone went with the object of enjoying himself or herself and a gala mood predominated from the beginning. Mr. R. H. Price made a brief speech of thanks and appreciation of the efforts of all concerned in the production and Mr. Costello and Mr. Spencer Hayes replied, after which one or two of our visiting friends spoke appreciatively of the way in which their efforts had been received.