by Peter Davis (February 2019)
In 1871 two great British artists were brought together to provide some Christmas entertainment and this partnership produced something bigger still and set up the world of musicals for the last 150 years. William Schwenck Gilbert was a dramatist, poet and illustrator. Arthur Sullivan was an extremely talented composer who knew the limitations of every instrument in the orchestra and the possibilities of the human voice. Three years later they got together on a more permanent arrangement and the world went wild for G&S.
With Gilbert’s wit and gentle satire on the British establishment it was the equivalent of "Have I Got News For You" only with great tunes and humour. For over twenty years they produced one hit show after another. Sullivan was knighted in 1883 but Gilbert had to wait until 1907 as his pointed poking fun at the authorities did not go down too well with them. Eventually the relationship soured and they never spoke again after 1898, which happened to be the same year that brick making started in the quiet hamlet of Wootton Pillinge situated between Bedford and Ampthill.
The Stewart family who owned the London Brick Company built a model village for their workers. Starting in 1926 it was named in their honour: goodbye Wootton Pillinge hello Stewartby. The village hall was completed in 1929. At its height the LBC in Marston Vale had 167 chimneys, its own ambulance, fire crews, horticultural and photographic departments, swimming pool and sports clubs.
In 1951 the local school decided to have a production of “The Pirates of Penzance” and lo and behold the Stewartby Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society was formed. Any town, however small, that considered itself to be taken seriously had to produce a G&S.
Over the last 68 years the world has turned a few times and G&S fell out of fashion in many places and some young people have never heard of them or are even aware what a dramatic impact they had on British society and music throughout the English speaking world.
In 2008 brick making finally came to an end and now there are only 4 disused chimneys and a couple of kilns left to remind the people of Bedfordshire of their heritage. However, SAODS has been going from strength to strength and still produces a G&S every November for the best part of a week, in Stewartby village hall. It has at least a 13 part orchestra and the singers are not mic’ed. SAODS is a happy and well meaning society. It normally produces a spring show for a couple of nights, has jumble sales and visits local churches for charity performances. The G&S shows are still well received and they get very good reviews from NODA. The society is only one of two that regularly produces G&S in Bedfordshire. To those that know it, it is a local hotbed and there may be many out there who would like to become more involved with a part of Britain’s musical heritage. There is a spring show in May, but if there is anyone out there who wants to be a part of the next G&S production in November then look up SAODS.
Scenes from the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan
This plate is a replica of an original hand painted plate, which was presented to Sir Ronald and Lady Stewartby by the Stewartby Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, to mark their 25 years as President and Vice President.
Produced in fine English bone china
Designed by Jenny Hinchcliffe, of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, 1985
Limited edition 250 number 1
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF BEDFORDSHIRE WOMEN'S INSTITUTES
music from the last hundred years
in support of the charity
TO REACH FOR THE STARS
songs from stage and film
ST JAMES' CHURCH
in support of the church
AN ABC OF MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT
A is for Arias, B is for Bagpipes, C is for Cadenzas
HOUGHTON CONQUEST CHURCH
in support of the church
THIS IS 1956
a taste of life from 60 years ago
in support of the church
songs from the early movies
'TIL THE BOYS COME HOME
in commemoration of 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War
take a trip down memory lane to an era when you had time to "Listen with Mother" and housewives had a choice!
OLD TYME MUSIC HALL
celebrating 60 glorious years
the music of Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein
a selection from Gilbert and Sullivan
led by Shirley and accompanied by Pam
in aid of church restoration funds
led by Shirley and accompanied by Brian
fundraising concert for Roxton Congregational Church
presented by the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA)
If you would like more information on any aspect of the society
• to perform
• to help out
• to see a show
please contact Hazel
phone: 01908 616213
We rehearse and perform in Stewartby. Early rehearsals are held at the church hall, later rehearsals and the performances are at Stewartby Village Hall.
Stewartby United Church Hall
Park Crescent. MK43 9NJ
Stewartby Village Hall
Stewartby Way. MK43 9LX