Hall of Fame

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Dennis as Wilfred Shadbolt with Margaret Amey (Phoebe) in The Yeomen of the Guard (1982)

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Dennis as Sir Despard Murgatroyd with Pam Hoskins (Mad Margaret) in Ruddigore (1981)

From its earliest days Southampton Operatic Society has been a society of rules. These can be found in the Members' Handbook but there are also the unofficial unwritten rules and there have been many of those over the years – the claim that new members must spend a show in the chorus before being considered for a principal part is perhaps the best known.

When Dennis Gooch joined SAOS in 1965 this ‘unwritten policy’ was strictly adhered to so it must have come as a surprise to everyone when the auditioning panel gave him the part of the Mikado! Indeed, the committee wrote to the directing team of Bert Clague and D Cecil Williams reprimanding them for ignoring the rule. 

Dennis was obviously a great success in his debut SAOS performance and went on to perform in 25 shows before retiring in 1985 (22 as a principal). He also served as the group’s Treasurer from 1970 to 1983 and was less than impressed when a show lost money - in 1982 the Patience principals found themselves rehearsing in their homes whenever possible in an attempt to save money.

  • Dennis’ performing record for the Society:
  • 1966 – The Mikado of Japan in The Mikado
  • 1967 – Sergeant Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard 
  • 1968 – Giuseppe Palmieri in The Gondoliers
  • 1969 – Florian in Princess Ida
  • 1970 – King Paramount the First in Utopia Limited
  • 1971 – Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore
  • 1972 – Pooh-Bah in The Mikado
  • 1973 – Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore
  • 1974 – Mars in Orpheus in the Underworld
  • 1975 – Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard
  • 1976 – Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre in The Sorcerer
  • 1977 – Giuseppe Palmieri in The Gondoliers
  • 1978 – Chorus in Carmen
  • 1979 – The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance
  • 1980 – Private Willis in Iolanthe
  • 1980 – Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore
  • 1981 – Marcel in La Vie Parisienne
  • 1981 – Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore
  • 1982 – Chorus in Patience
  • 1982 – Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard
  • 1983 – Pooh-Bah in The Mikado
  • 1983 – Puh-Bah in Der Mikado
  • 1983 – Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance
  • 1984 – Arac in Princess Ida
  • 1985 – Chorus in Die Fledermaus

Sadly Dennis retired before SOS shows were routinely filmed but there are many newspaper reviews to illustrate that he was, without doubt, an exceptionally talented performer.
Some sample press reviews…

Newcomer Dennis Gooch, as the Mikado, showed that the society has another rich voice to call upon. 

The gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, were played with verve and obvious enjoyment by John Hoskins and Dennis Gooch and their vitality was matched by their spouses Jill Meager (Gianetta) and Pamela Hoskins (Tessa).

There are also lively performances from John Hoskins and Dennis Gooch as Hilarion’s friends 

Dennis Gooch also impressed as King Paramount, strong of voice and light of dance-step

Pooh-Bah, is a difficult part to play but Dennis Gooch has obviously given deep thought to the characterisation. 

Pamela Hoskins brought Phoebe, the Yeoman’s daughter, to life with natural acting and singing, and was well complemented by head jailor Wilfred Shadbolt, performed by bass Dennis Gooch with a fine sense of theatre.

There was no difficulty in hearing Dennis Gooch who, as Private Willis, added a third and topical verse to his song.

John Hoskins (Captain Corcoran) and Dennis Gooch (a splendidly grisly Dick Deadeye) had found their perfect roles.

Dennis Gooch as her foil, Shadbolt, was grossly unprepossessing and preposterous. 

Other outstanding characters in this tuneful extravaganza were Dennis Gooch as Pooh-Bah… 

Dennis Gooch made an admirable forceful Sergeant of Police.

The warrior sons of Gama, Dennis Gooch, John Whale and Peter Hill sang out strongly and it was a joy to hear their resonant tones.

After retiring from the stage Dennis could be seen regularly at the SOS Juniors’ shows where his daughter, Wendy South, was the long standing Director. He also attended the concert organised to celebrate the group’s 90th Anniversary and couldn’t resist joining the performers on stage for a final rousing rendition of ‘Hail Poetry’.

Terry O'Farrell


 Shirley Wort (Josephine) with John Hoskins (Ralph Rackstraw) - HMS Pinafore 1962


                                      John as Cyril in Princess Ida 1969

John joined SAOS in 1949 and before his untimely death in October 1985 appeared in 39 productions, playing a principal role in all but six of them. Ray Harris, who appeared alongside John in most of those shows, recently declared that he was ‘the best tenor that the Society ever had.’ Indeed, John played all the main G&S tenor leads available in the 36 years of his membership, notably Marco, Frederic, Nanki-Poo, Tolloller, Cyril, Fairfax, Ralph Rackstraw, Richard Dauntless and Captain Fitzbattleaxe - many of them two or three times.

John was a large man (his performing colleague reports that he weighed over 18 stone) and he certainly made an impact on the stage, it is very rare to find a review of one of his shows where he does not feature in a positive light. Perhaps the most memorable critique occurred in 1962 when the reporter was much taken by the size of the leading man, ‘A butterball of a tenor by name of John Hoskins rolled on the stage with a cherubic smile, scared into his performance and the cast contracted his enthusiasm without realising it. Trial by Jury sped its modest way because of him.’

Some other typical reviews of John …

1955: ‘Frederic (John Hoskins) brought a fine voice to a difficult part.’

1958: 'John Hoskins, as that wonderful character Cyril (a sort of Court Billy Bunter) is really good.’

1960: 'John Hoskins and Raymond Harris, sang with grand aplomb and acted in a wickedly satirical style as the royal republican rulers.’

1963: ‘John Hoskins sang splendidly as the Pirate Apprentice.’

1964: ‘Mr. Hoskins tenor is the best male voice in the cast.’ 

1967: ‘It took John Hoskins, as Colonel Fairfax, to inject some real life into the production half way through the first act. He is a most competent performer with a fine voice and has the advantage of being a veteran operatic singer.’

1972: ‘John Hoskins’ pleasant tenor, good stage presence and ready smile brings the wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo to life.’ 

1984: ‘John Hoskins, uses a wealth of experience in creating a commanding King Hildebrand.'

John was a popular member of the group but could also be quite stubborn, in 1978 he was very worried about plans to perform Carmen and refused to have anything to do with the project  complaining to the Committee that it would ‘ruin the Society’s  reputation.’ John became the Society’s Vice Chair in 1982 and at the time of his death was Chair of the Future of SAOS sub-committee – the group that later recommended the formation of a junior section.

Terry O'Farrell

Jillian as Constance in The Sorcerer 1976 ...                                     ... and as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore with Tony Reid (1989)

 Jillian was perhaps fortunate that SOS concentrated solely on opera and operetta  during the two decades of her membership but it cannot be denied that the Society was really lucky that it had her to take so many of the leading soprano roles – her strong, tuneful voice mixed with her mischievous and flirtatious acting were the perfect combination! It would have been interesting to see her perform in musicals as well, she surely would have excelled in that genre too.

Not only was Jill an answer to a Directing Team’s prayers, she was also very popular with the Business Manager and Treasurer as she was particularly adept at selling tickets.

Her appearances and roles for the Society are as follows:

  • 1969 – Princess Ida (Chorus)
  • 1970 – Utopia Limited (Chorus)
  • 1971 – HMS Pinafore (Chorus)
  • 1972 – The Mikado (Yum-Yum)
  • 1973 – Ruddigore (Rose Maybud)
  • 1974 – Orpheus in the Underworld (Cupid)
  • 1975 – The Yeomen of the Guard (Elsie Maynard)
  • 1976 – The Sorcerer (Constance)
  • 1977 – The Gondoliers (Gianetta)
  • 1978 – Carmen (Frasquita)
  • 1979 – The Pirates of Penzance (Mabel)
  • 1980 – Iolanthe (Phyllis)
  • 1980 – HMS Pinafore (Chorus)
  • 1981 – La Vie Parisienne (Gabrielle)
  • 1981 – Ruddigore (Rose Maybud)
  • 1982 – Patience (Lady Saphir)
  • 1983 – The Mikado (Pitti-Sing)
  • 1983 – Der Mikado (Pitti-Sing)
  • 1984 – Trial by Jury (Public)
  • 1984 – The Zoo (Laetitia)
  • 1984 – Princess Ida (Princess Ida)
  • 1985 – Die Fledermaus (Adele)
  • 1986 – The Gondoliers (Casilda)
  • 1986 – The Sorcerer (Aline)
  • 1987 – Orpheus in the Underworld (Diana)
  • 1988 – The Pirates of Penzance (Chorus)
  • 1989 – The Mikado (Chorus)
  • 1989 – L’Elisir d’Amore (Adina)
  • 1990 – The Yeomen of the Guard (Elsie Maynard) 

Samples of reviews of her performances can be found below and it is worth noting that the headline for the critique of the 1972 production of The Mikado was “Yum-Yum is Delicious!’

  • 1972: Jillian Charnley, with excellent voice, is a delicious Yum-Yum
  • 1973: Jillian Charnley belies her diminutive size with a voice of power and clarity. 1975: As Elsie, the strolling singer, Jillian Charnley, delighted with her strong, clear and well-focused soprano voice
  • 1980: Jill Charnley was outstanding as Phyllis, the Arcadian Shepherdess with a lively personality and assured vocal technique.
  • 1983: Yum-Yum’s two graceful sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo (Jillian Charnley and Daphne Shaw), fluttered through the scenery like butterflies and really brought their parts to life.
  • 1984: In the title role, Jillian Charnley was in excellent vocal form and gave a confident portrayal.
  • 1989: Jillian Charnley sang a mischievous Adina
  • 1990: As always, Jillian Charnley was excellent as the enchanting Elsie Maynard.

 Fortunately, SOS began to have its shows videoed towards the end of the1980s so we can still enjoy Jill’s singing today – three clips from her final show (featuring her as Elsie Maynard) can be seen by clicking below…

I Have a Song to Sing - O!

A Man Who Would Woo a Fair Maid

Act 2 Finale     

Terry O’Farrell


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