"Must have a beginning, you know..." Mikado
William Hogarth, organist and choirmaster of Marton Parish Church, Blackpool, came to the conclusion that an outlet for secular as well as sacred music was needed in the parish.
It was in 1930 that the Vicar, the Reverend Charles Macready, announced that there was to be formed a "Choral and Operatic Society", with Mr Hogarth as Musical Director.
Their first production was not Gilbert and Sullivan but an opera by Chastey Hector called Cupid and the Ogre with libretto by Stanley C West. The show ran for three nights in December 1930 in the new Church Hall.
There was an orchestra (then as now), which included Mr Robert Atherton as accompanist (later to become musical director). The local newspaper reviewed the performance and proclaimed "This society has a big future before it."
Shortly after that show the society formulated its constitution as a church society, replacing Mr Hogarth, as "Lord High Everything-else", with a committee. The society also became a member of NODA (The National Operatic and Dramatic Association).
After a popular and successful performance of Merrie England, the third production was to be Iolanthe. This was a good choice as it was the Golden Jubilee of its first production at the Savoy. The show was a great success, reviewed by the local newspaper as having "...never a dull moment."
During the following years the constitution of the society was modified to extend membership to people who were not members of the Church. This allowed all performers from the area to apply for parts, leading to a higher musical standard.
By 1936 the society had started to tour, with full performances including costumes and scenery.
The society suspended performances during the Second World War, as many company members were drafted. It was agreed though, that the society would not close.
Performances resumed with The Mikado in 1946, with many new chorus members who later went on to take principal parts.
Many of the productions of the following years coincided with anniversaries of the original performances - HMS Pinafore in 1948 was on the 70th anniversary of the opera, and The Sorcerer in 1952 opened almost 75 years to the day since its first D’Oyly Carte performance.
In 1954 Mr Robert Atherton was appointed Musical Director, a post which he was to take another twenty-seven times. There can’t be many amateur operatic musical directors who can boast having conducted twelve of the thirteen Savoy operas.
During the 1950s the society also produced several successful plays, but the operas were still the mainstay, receiving regular positive reviews - "The large audience saw a performance that would have done credit to a professional company." (Pirates, 1958) - "A spirited and polished performance." (Yeomen, 1959) - "Marton Mikado was superb. Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte herself would have sat enthralled through the performance." (Mikado 1960).
The sixties brought a new influx of members, drawn from other local groups, which were trained by members of the society. Marton were fortunate to hold on to principals and chorus members from year to year enabling them to build their experience and produce shows to exceptionally high standards.
New for the society were Utopia Limited in 1967 which, through rarely heard of, was very well received, and Princess Ida in 1974 which overcame its staging difficulties to become a great performance. And for the first time Trial By Jury was given as an opener to HMS Pinafore. This was in 1978 - the centenary of Pinafore.
Regular productions continued during the eighties and nineties, with the centenary performance of The Grand Duke in 1996 - another first for the society. New also in the 1990s was the establishment of this website.
The society has given numerous concerts over the years and these became a regular feature from the mid 1970s, mostly in the spring of each year.
Several principals have received individual awards from NODA, and the society has received awards for Best Staged Production and Best Lighting.
Shows continued to be staged at Marton Church Hall until 2003, when the Hall was sold. The society then staged its shows at the Lowther Pavilion, Lytham St Annes until 2018.
Our performing venue changed again in 2019 when we moved to Thornton Little Theatre. That is where will be in 2020, our 90th year, with The Mikado. Come and join us in our celebratory year and help us on the road to our Centenary in 2030!
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