Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The New Avenue Hall,
April 1934
Cast List
Sir Richard Cholmondeley (a)
Sir Richard Cholmondeley (b)
Colonel Fairfax (a)
Colonel Fairfax (b)
Sergeant Meryll
Leonard Meryll
Jack Point
Wilfred Shadbolt
The Headsman
First Yeoman (a)
First Yeoman (b)
Second Yeomen
First Citizen
Second Citizen
Elsie Maynard (a)
Elsie Maynard (b)
Phoebe Meryll (a)
Phoebe Meryll (b)
Dame Carruthers (a)
Dame Carruthers (b)
Kate (a)
Kate (b)

Notes on this performance

11. The Yeomen of the Guard

A change of name…

It was decided at the AGM to omit (Above Bar) from the Society’s name so its new title was now Southampton Amateur Operatic Society. The Committee also gave the membership the choice of five operas from which to choose the production for 1934 and The Mikado won, receiving three more votes than Ruddigore. However, the President of the University College Musical Society wrote to complain that his group had performed The Mikado ‘only recently’ and, rather surprisingly, the Committee agreed to change their plans and stage The Yeomen of the Guard instead – there was also a reluctance to stage any G&S opera that the group had not performed before.

The directing team partnership of  G W Mitchell and C J Andrews was asked to continue but the Hon Producer threatened to resign unless the Committee agreed to certain conditions. Primarily he wanted more men in the chorus (an advertisement for them was promptly put in The Echo) but he also wanted the right to ‘revise the cast from time to time as he seemed fit.’ This demand was not so well received but the Committee was so desperate for his services that they reluctantly agreed.

The Committee was also very keen to return to the values of the original group and resolved that the proceeds from The Yeomen of the Guard would be donated to charity (even though they would still have to pay the dreaded Entertainment Tax). An offer was also made to sing carols on behalf of the Rotary Club but that was turned down! The New Avenue Hall was deemed to be a better venue for forthcoming shows and was duly booked (along with the adjoining Spencer Hall to give extra room for changing) – the itemised account shows that the caretaker received £1 5s 0d (£1.25) for the six day hiring. Double-casting was again utilised where possible and children from the orphanages were invited to the first Dress Rehearsal free of charge - the second Dress was open to school children at 6d each.

The Echo reporter wrote bemoaning the fact that the professionals of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company rarely visited Southampton, but he was indebted to SAOS as they provided such excellent entertainment and could be considered as ‘respectable replacements’. Again he preferred the efforts of the ‘second cast’ writing, ‘Good as the performance was on Monday, it was better still last night. The company generally seemed to have gained something in confidence and consequently something in power. There was a livelier spirit generally. Particularly noticeable was the improvement in the chorus work. The Yeomen were in fine voice from the beginning, but on Monday the sopranos were lacking in tone. Last night they rose well to the occasion and the effect was perceptible at once.’

The Yeomen of the Guard did indeed make a profit, (£49 19 6d) and 6d (2.5p) was also transferred from the general account to round it up to £50. This sum was presented to the Surgical Aid Society (£35) and the Free Eye Hospital (£15)  - the National Health Service would not be launched until 1948…

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Fairfax

                Cicely Siggers (Elsie Maynard)                                                   Sydney Egerton (Colonel Fairfax)

 LB books dog

Hopefully coming to you in early 2021!