Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gilbert and Sullivan

It was inevitable that I'd admit that I'm a big fan.

Clever clever words and just as clever music. As I write I'm listening to 'The Gondoliers' which isn't my favourite but the only one I have on CD (and by extension the only one I have ripped on the laptop). I have another CD of highlights but it's not the same as a complete performance.

There was a time when I could sing along with 'The Sorcerer'. I still remember 'Number seventy simmery axe'. ("My name is John Wellington Wells, I'm a dealer in magic and spells') though it's thirty years since those times.

My introduction to G&S was HMS Pinafore in 1976. I was, at the time, a subscriber to 'The World Music Club'. So many LP's per month. My orders were extensive. Rachmaninoff, Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Nielsen, Beethoven, Scriabin, Khatchaturian. Most of it unheard before ordering. They mailed out a glossy booklet each month listing what was coming in the next year; I'd read and order and, as regularly as clockwork, a new package of LP's would arrive and I'd listen to another new composer. Yep, I'd order as much as a year ahead.

The ABC[^] produced and ran a program during the second half of the 1970's called Certain Women[^] of which I was a fan. One of their stories covered a school production of The Mikado. I particularly remember how they did 'Three Little Maids from School are we.'. Enough to pique my interest!

And so it was that I ordered and received HMS Pinafore. You'd imagine that I'd order The Mikado, which I did. But WRC had their schedule and Pinafore came before Mikado and so that was the order in which I received em. Love at first hearing! I was living in a bungalow behind a house shared with my sister. Given that some of my readers live in Britain I think it only fair that I explain. In Australia one has a house on a block of land. On some of those blocks of land there might be a separate, much smaller and usually single roomed structure, in the backyard and in which people live. That structure is called a bungalow. My sister had the house; I had the bungalow. Worked for both of us :-)

One afternoon not long after I'd recieved my copy of HMS Pinafore I was playing it, loudly. 22 year olds don't think of the neighbours! Dave, a Turtle Video friend and my sisters then boyfriend came by, heard it and, after laughing, danced outside my door. I laughed too.

My girlfriend at the time took me, on my 23rd birthday, to see a performance whose name eludes me at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. It was one of those modernish works where they relate the life of someone and illustrate it in music. The someones in this case were Gilbert and Sullivan and it was a wonderful performance. I particularly enjoyed their version of the 'carpet quarrel'.

In 1984, Sue and I went to the Princess Theatre to enjoy a performance of Princess Ida. I haven't been to live theatre as much as I'd like (if Sue reads that line she'll laugh bitterly) but I did enjoy that performance! Our seats were first row right. Very much to the right. Much further right than my politics!

In first row right we were directly above the orchestra. Imagine my surprise to see that one of the cellists was the brother of a childhood friend.

Twenty two years later I still remember the fat sweaty bastard on the right of the chorus singing his heart out. Don't know why his face sticks in my mind but it does.

My favourite G&S is Utopia Limited but I'd place The Mikado second. Wonderful music. Just listening again to 'The Gondoliers' reminds me of how much I like G&S.

Even a bad performance of G&S is fun, which no doubt explains how suburban theatre groups get away with it.

I really must repurchase the entire collection!

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