Memories of the 1996 Buxton Gilbert and Sullivan Festival

In August 1996 I attended the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England (near Manchester). I was lucky enough to play in the children's Mikado and to attend the summer school to learn how to play the Mikado chorus parts. Gary and Ann Sullivan were our teachers. The children's performance was the idea of Jane Wells (Publicity Director for the Buxton Opera House) and Ian Smith (the Festival Director). James Newby (the Festival Musical Director) and Claire Fieldhouse conducted us while Cilla Grant was the piano accompanist.
We performed the Mikado in the Paxton theatre suite at matinees on Friday 9 and Sunday 11 August.

I loved Buxton. Here are some of the sights and memories that I want to share with you.

operahus.jpg - 9.6 K The Buxton Opera House was built in 1903 and refurbished in 1979. It has 4 levels, the Stalls, the Dress Circle, the Upper Circle and the Gallery.

levels.jpg - 5.9 KYou can see all except the gallery in this photo, which was taken from the edge of the front stalls. Guess who that is in the foreground!

We flew into Manchester on Saturday 3rd and by Sunday 4th the Festival started with impromptu concerts by several G&S groups, a costumed procession through the Gardens around the pavillion and a fun sing-along in the Octagon. The Octagon and the Pavillion are connected to the Buxton Opera House and they are BIG! Here is a picture of the Octagon and the Pavillion. You can't see the Paxton theatre, it is at the back of the Pavillion.

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Here is part of the costumed procession

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singalon.jpg - 11.4 K Here is part of the sing-along in the Octagon.

On Sunday night I went to see "Cox and Box" and "Trial by Jury" performed by the original D'Oyly Carte principals. Trial by Jury was very ....different.... but I liked it. KoKo made a good judge and Peggy Anne Jones' shout of "Basingstoke" cracked me up. Daddy didn't take any pictures that night -- Boo to him -- Pooh Pooh to him -- and that's what I shall say.

Here are pictures of the magnificent roof of the Opera house and a view (from the Upper Circle) of the Gondoliers finale on Thursday night. In between we saw the Mikado on Monday (KoKo messed up a bit but he made up for it - a very good performance), The Sorceror on Tuesday (I can't understand how John Wellington Wells manages to jump up and click his heels together), Patience on Wednesday (my first time seeing it, and it is now one of my favorites, this was the best Bunthorne I've seen -- I've seen others since), Pirates of Penzance (original edition) on Friday. Pirates was very interesting, with many differences from today's performances and with a whole new song about Queen Victoria! I didn't get to see the Sonoma Valley Children's Chorale matinees as I was at school.

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Ruddygore on Friday night was performed by the original D'Oyly Carte principals. Gillian Knight did a very good job, as did Rose Maybud's understudy (Deborah Clague), who had less than a day's notice to be ready for the performance. She was the wife of Geoffery Shovelton (Dick Dauntless) and they both were wonderful! Kenneth Sanford's performance showed incredible energy as Sir Despard, despite his age. Simon Butteriss, one of the new D'Oyly Carte stars did a very good job.

But the really important performances of the week were mine - [blush]. On Friday morning we didn't go to the community school, we went to the Paxton theatre where we had dress rehearsals with the Mikado principals (Ian Smith's friends). Ian played KoKo. Tom Mills played the Mikado. Here is a photo of me and Jennifer Sidebottom (I am on the left) doing our feature acting bit where we had to be scared by the Mikado and rush back to our places. I also screamed (dad is going to put up a sound clip if he can figure out how to do it).

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OK - Here is the audio clip of Karen's scream
The clip lasts for 22 seconds, and contains the Mikado's (Tom Mills) lead up lines to his frightening growl - followed by the tiny scream which Karen mentions.
To listen in RealAudio Format, in 20Kbps mono, click here

To download a Free RealAudio player, click here

katisha.jpg - 3.3 K I really liked Katisha (Angela Fuller). I think she is one of the best Katishas I have heard.

groupk.jpg - 9.0 KHere is a photo of (bottom row left to right) me, Jennifer, Christopher Reidy and Kaara Heywood. Emma Mills is above Christopher and Jenny.

study.jpg - 4.7 K I want to tell you that playing in an opera is a lot of hard work. Here is a picture of me with my headphones and score trying to learn the music in the train from Manchester to Buxton. I had started learning the Mikado words and music about 3 weeks before we left for Buxton, but didn't quite finish in time.

But it was all worthwhile. Here is the complete cast during the curtain call.

I had to leave Buxton straight after the last Mikado performance on Sunday afternoon. Mum and Dad had to get back to work and couldn't stay for the rest of the festival. But I will be back again next year ......

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Actually we never saw any fire, and I don't think there was any. But the alarms went off at 3.40am and we had to go out into the freezing cold rain and watch firemen and fire engines. We had put on our clothes, but those that had obeyed the evacuation instructions and left in their undies were pretty cold by the time the firemen had checked the building and let us back into our rooms.
Here is a picture of two of the firemen coming down the big stairway into the foyer of the Palace Hotel, with the G&S festival posters in the background. You can see the bored look on the face of the one guest in the photo. Daddy didn't take a picture of the ones in their undies!

Buxton bread is much better than Californian bread -its actually crispy.
The singers at the festival were really good, but I wish I had met John Reed.
I got Gillian Knight, Patricia Leonard, Michael Buchan and Geoffery Shovelton's autographs.
I recommend everyone goes to this festival - I had the best time ever!

Karen Marshall

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