Opera society celebrates half a century

By Dan Santy Wednesday 30 January 2013 Updated: 05/02 08:20

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Buy photos » Mary Martin, Anne Boulton, Rex Pogson, Kim Arnold and Peter Privett celebrate five decades of Rugby Operatic Society. 05.013.014.rug.jm

FOUNDED on a shoestring budget and with a small but eager cast, Rugby Operatic Society is celebrating 50 golden years of staging productions in the borough.

The society started life in 1963 and has grown to be a key part of Rugby's musical heritage. Formed by teachers Barrie Woodward and Peter Carder as somewhere for teachers with a common interest in opera to meet, the pair had to borrow £20 from their trade union to get the society up and running.

The scene was Dunsmore School Hall - now Ashlawn School - the production, Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, performed by a small cast wearing t-shirts and jeans accompanied by an organ and two violins, along with homemade scenery.

Society president and founder Barrie said: "The thought of a financial flop never entered the minds of the enthusiastic cast.

"Despite being slated by the local press, the show was a success and a profit of £100 was realised. This meant that material could be bought to make the costumes for the next show, The Mikado."

Following more shows and a few mishaps - falling scenery and an over zealous fire brigade among others - the ever growing society moved to Lawrence Sheriff School and then Rugby Theatre in 1972, before changing its name from Rugby Young Teachers’ (NUT) Operatic Society to a more simple Rugby Operatic Society five years later.

Over the years the society has performed a number of memorable shows, taking in visits to Rugby's German twin town of Russelheim and hosting a joint concert with the Ars Viva choir from Evreux, France, and the Vocalensemble from Russelheim at the Benn Hall in 1995.

"It is said that from little acorns great trees have grown, and the society has grown over the past 50 years to become a significant part of Rugby's musical landscape," added Barrie.

Today, Rugby Operatic Society continues to perform each year with recent productions including Trial by Jury, The Sorcerer, Iolanthe and HMS Pinnafore having been staged.

This year's 50th anniversary production will be the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Yeomen of the Guard, to be performed at Rugby Theatre from Tuesday February 19 to Saturday February 23.

And as part of the special occasion, an exhibition of society memorabilia from shows held over the years is going on display at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.

For tickets call 01788 541234.

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Buy photos» Props and memorabilia from 50 years of Rugby Operatic Society. 05.013.014.rug.jm1

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Buy photos» The score from Rugby Operatic Society’s production of the Yeomen of the Guard.

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