September’s guest speaker was Bernard Lockett who gave an interesting talk on the lives and works of Gilbert and Sullivan. W.S. Gilbert the wordsmith came from a wealthy background and originally trained as a lawyer, while Arthur Sullivan came from a poorer background and was an accomplished composer of church music but always wanted to compose music for the theatre.
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The next meeting will be on 3rd October at Diss United Reformed Church commencing at 10.30am.
In 1871 the two men met and although their first collaboration Thespis was not successful there followed an introduction to Richard Doyle-Carte and in 1874 they enjoyed their first success Trial By Jury which was inspired by Gilbert’s experience of the law. Between 1874 and 1896 they became the most successful musical partnership of all time, their productions being the start of musical theatre as we know it, appealing to audiences across all parts of society. Much as Charles Dickens highlighted the plight of the poor in Victorian England through his novels, W.S. Gilbert ridiculed the benefits and privileges afforded to the rich through his lyrics. To illustrate this point Bernard played excerpts from various productions and read aloud Gilbert’s lyrics proving that 130 years later very little has changed for the privileged few in society. Situations involving “the old boys network’’ annoyed Gilbert as did deference to politicians, bankers, policemen and through his lyrics he took the opportunity to satirize these people but with the accompaniment of Sullivan’s jaunty music most were unaware that they were being held up to ridicule. Through their words and music this mismatched pair provided a musical legacy that endures to this day. Although perceived by some to be a very English institution Gilbert and Sullivan’s music is still regularly performed and enjoyed worldwide.