W. S. Gilbert (left) and Arthur Sullivan (right), whose theatrical partnership created the sparkling operettas from which our concert programme was drawn

Sunday 12 May 2013

The Scratch® Gilbert & Sullivan Gala

Royal Albert Hall

Our concert featuring  the topsy-turvy world of Gilbert & Sullivan was musically a huge success, with the chorus on excellent form, sporting colourful props identifying them as peers, pirates, ‘gentlemen (and ladies) of Japan’, gondolieri and contadine.  The musical numbers were linked with a more or less chronological narrative written by Robin Wilson and compered from the stage by Don Monro; we all thoroughly enjoyed letting our hair down, and the (rather select) audience was enthusiastic in its appreciation.

Brian Kay, Principal Conductor of The Really Big Chorus and an ardent champion of the work of Gilbert & Sullivan, masterminded the musical forces with evident delight (see his comments below).  Soloists were the celebrated comic baritone Simon Butteriss (drawing gasps from both chorus and audience with his update version of Koko’s ‘Little List’), seasoned G & S veteran Leon Berger (baritone/bass) with younger soloists Daisy Brown (soprano), Katie Slater (mezzo-soprano) and Nicholas Scott (tenor) vivacious, solemn, conniving, flirtatious and pompous by turn but always hugely enjoyable to listen to. The English Festival Orchestra, led by Adrian Levine danced its way through a huge variety of music and seemed to enjoy every note!

Brian Kay writes:
‘There’s no doubt that our evening of Gilbert & Sullivan will keep a uniquely special place in my memory as an evening of tremendous fun, outstanding singing and great entertainment. I still find it hard to believe that some people find G & S unworthy of their attention and maybe beneath their musical dignity. Gilbert’s wonderfully witty words and Sullivan’s deliciously tuneful music have the power to lift the spirits like no other and this was certainly the case in May when 900 voices produced some of the best singing I can remember in a Concert from Scratch. We had the benefit of a prior workshop, for those less familiar with the music, and then on the day, along came a whole host of people who clearly knew their G & S inside out – some even singing the entire programme without a copy of the music. The amazing sound of the unaccompanied chorus Eagle high in cloudland soaring is still rattling happily round my brain!’

The charity which benefited from all programme sales, advertising and sponsorship was the British Heart Foundation. You can read more about their work here (opens in a new window).