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Matlock & District Amateur Operatic Society, Productions 1907-69
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How it began

On August 16th 1906 a number of people interested in forming a Matlock and District Amateur Operatic Society gathered at Matlock Town Hall with Mr. Henry Challand, the managing director of Smedley's Hydro, chairing the meeting. Funds were collected from those present with £50 suggested as the guaranteed amount needed. It was also decided to form a committee and officers were duly elected, although the chosen President (the Right Hon. Victor Cavendish, M.P.) and Vice-Presidents (Messrs F. C. Arkwright, J.P. D.L., Mr. J. B. Marsden-Smedley, J.P., and Col. Robertson-Aikman) were not present on the night. From those who were at the meeting E. H. Charge became the Secretary, Mrs. Charge was appointed Registrar, Mr. W. Basquil was elected as Treasurer and the Executive Committee was Miss Leslie, Miss Newton, Messrs. McGee, W. Bond and L. G. Dickenson. Other attendees included: Mrs. McGee, Misses Speed, Miss Wall, Mr and Mrs Kirkham, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. G. Else, Miss K. Hartley, Messrs. L. Callender, H. Loveday, J. Franklin Thomas, J. Davenport, J. Parker, Hotchings, W. Sharp, W. Ellis and J. Hartley[1]. Many of these names can be found in the 1908 programme.

The Society's first production, and up to 1914

The comic opera "Erminie" was chosen for their initial production and the first rehearsal was held in the Town Hall during September the same year[2]. The show itself was performed over three nights in front of a large audience in February 1907 and was deemed to be excellent[3]. The Victoria Hall on Smedley Street was selected for their first show and this was their chosen venue for some years afterwards. This changed in 1911 when an additional performance was staged in the newly built and more commodious Kursaal (or New Pavilion) in Matlock Bath, something that continued until 1914 when the First World War intervened[4].

From then on

As can be seen from the list below it took a further eight years after the war had ended for the Society to get back on its feet and stage "The Yeomen of the Guard". Recovery was a little quicker after the Second World War and performances have been an annual event. The Society eventually became Matlock Musical Theatre (see bottom of the page).

Loyal service
During the matinee tea of 1963 N.O.D.A. medals were presented to 11 members of the society. Between them they had amassed a total of 327 years' association with the amateur theatre, almost all of it in Matlock. They were the gift of the then President, Mr. J. Stanley Thornton.

The recipients were Mrs. Jess Bradshaw (nee Dickinson, a founder member), Mrs Jessie Agutter, Mrs. Bernice Stoddart, Mrs. Clarice Lill, Mrs. M. Wright, Miss Evie Gentle, Mr. Eric Simms, Mr. Arthur Tibbs, Mr. Alistair Storey, Councillor Harry Briddon and Mr. Ron Smith[5].

Programmes and productions

Below are listed all the productions, with images of a selection of covers. I unfortunately don't have all programmes for all the productions listed so there are blanks against some of the programme titles; I would welcome any additions to fill the gaps if you are able to help (see Contact Ann in the footer).

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The Cinema House, 1922

The Yeomen of the Guard was staged at Matlock Bath Pavilion in 1932

1907 - Erminie

- 1907 - Erminie, the first production (see above)

Stage Manager Mr. Sinclair, with Mr. Bond (who also performed)

The cast included:
Messrs J. W. Biddulph, J. F. Thomas, A Mackenzie, L. Dickinson, J. Gould, W. G. Sharp, C. McGie, F. Gillott, J. Hockcliffe jun, Mr. Charge,
Miss Lily Crawford, Mrs. E. H. Charge, Miss L. Speed, Miss Blanche Newton, Miss A. M. Barton, Miss Kirkham.

1908 - The Mikado

- 1908 - The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu)

» See transcript of names and some advertisements from the programme: Matlock & District Amateur Operatic Society, The Mikado, 1908
» An advertisement from this production can be found on Matlock at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

(No programme available)

- 1909 - H.M.S. Pinafore (or The Lass That Loved a Sailor)

Performed Wednesday to Saturday 21 - 24 April 1909.
It is unclear whether it was a daily occurrence for the entire opera week, but a special train was laid on after the Saturday evening performance to convey people to the stations between Matlock and Derby.

1910 - Tom Jones

- 1910 - Tom Jones

They were the first Amateur Society to produce Tom Jones.

» Advertisements from this production can be found on Matlock at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century
» Another advertisement from this programme is included on Matlock: Crown Square, 1901

(No programme available)

- 1911 - Belle of Brittany

"The Belle of Brittany" was said to be an even more ambitious attempt than "Tom Jones". A performance had been arranged for the 27th February in the new Grand Pavilion Theatre at Matlock Bath, which was said to be more convenient for a large number of people from Derby. A special train had been arranged to take opera enthusiasts home afterwards.

(No programme available)

- 1912 - Les Cloches de Corneville

J. W. Johnstone, producer.
A. W. Bond, stage manager.
Miss Radford, leader of the orchestra.

Society members performed for five nights, with the concluding show at the Kursaal, Matlock Bath. The chorus and band totalled fifty performers. The annual ball was held at Chesterfield House Hydro the following evening, with the proceeds donated to hospital funds.

(No programme available)

- 1913 - The Yeomen of the Guard (or The Merryman and His Maid)

Principal roles were played/sung by:
W. H. Rylands (Cholmondeley)
T. Smith (Fairfax)
L. G. Dickinson (Sgt Merryll)
T. Coates (Leonard Merryll)
Wm. Robson (Jack Point)
A. W. Bond (Wilfred Shadbolt)
Miss Blanche Newton (Elsie Maynard)
Mrs. J. H. Houseley (Dame Carruthers)
Miss Mabel Walker (Kate)

(No programme available)

- 1914 - The Pirates of Penzance

The cast included Messrs. E. Dawes, W. H. Rylands, T. Smith, A. J. Fowkes, Misses May Repton, M. Kinchant, O. Kirkham and J. H. Houseley.

There were no productions in the years between and including 1915 and 1926.

(No programme available)

- 1927 - The Yeomen of the Guard

- 1928 - Iolanthe (or The Peer and the Peri)

(No programme available)

- 1929 - The Mikado

1930 - The Gondoliers

- 1930 - The Gondoliers (or The King of Barataria)

There are two web pages about this opera:

Those in leading roles.

The entire cast

(No programme available)

- 1931 - Ruddigore ( or The Witch's Curse)

All the cast
One of several productions in the first half of the 1930s.

- 1932 - The Yeomen of the Guard

» A little about the show. There are no photos at present.

1933 - No production, partly due to accommodation difficulties.

(No programme available)

- 1934 - The Chocolate Soldier

Four photos of the operatic production

The Quaker Girl

- 1935 - The Quaker Girl

Musical Comedy by James T. Tanner.
Lyrics by Adrian Ross and Percy Greenbank.
Music by Lionel Monkton.

Two pictures of the show

- 1936 - The Desert Song

Musical comedy.

Principal roles performed by:
Constance Bratby (Azuri)
Lesley Fearn (Sid El Kar)
Sam Fowkes (Ali Ben Ali)
Jessica Hazlewood (Hadji's wife)
Vincent Hobbs (Gen. Birabeau)
Horace Holmes (Sergt. de Boussac)
A. Stanley Moreton (Capt Paul Fontaine)
Ernest Needham (Lieut. La Vergne)
E. O. Simms (Pietre Birabeau)
Arthur Tibbs (Hadji)
Miss Inez Tinti (Margot Bonvalet)
Arthur Turner (Benjamin Kidd)
J. Harwood Turner & Arthur Wright (Mindar & Hassi)
Margaret Wrigley (Susan, Birabeau's Ward)
Marie L. Wright (Susan's friend)

(No programme available)

- 1937 - The Rebel Maid

A three act romantic light opera, set in 1688 on the eve of the Prince of Orange landing at Torbay.
Music by Montague Phillips; Lyrics by Gerald Dodson.
Producer - Laurie Lingard.
Musical Director - Mr. G. W. Johnson, the only original member of the society still taking part.

Principal roles performed by:
Sam Fowkes (Derek Landscombe)
Inez Tinti (Lady Mary Trefusis, The Rebel Maid)
A. M. Turner of Melbourne (Solomon Hooler)
Laurie Lingard (Septimus Bunkle)
Margaret Wrigley (Abigail, the lady's maid)
Vincent Hobbs (The villain of the piece)
A. S. Moreton (his lieutenant) ... and others

(No programme available)

- 1938 - The Arcadians

Some of the chorus.

- 1939 - The Gondoliers

Some of the chorus.

There were no productions in the years between and including 1940 and 1946.

- 1947 - The Geisha Girl

A Japanese Musical Play in Two Acts.

The cast of the first post-war production on the stage of the Cinema House

- 1948 - Goodnight Vienna

A romantic 3 act operetta, written in 1932.
The Books and Lyrics by Holt Marvel, the Music by George Posford and the Play adapted by Sydney Box.

The story began in Vienna in 1914 and concluded post war in "The House in the Trees", a restaurant on the outskirts of the city.

Members of the chorus

- 1949 - Merrie England

Two act comic opera set in reign of Elizabeth I.
Music by Edmund German to a libretto by Basil Hood.

Members of the cast and theatre tickets

- 1950 - The Mikado

1951 - A Country Girl

- 1951 - A Country Girl

- 1952 - Tom Jones

1953 - The Street Singer

- 1953 - The Street Singer

- 1954 - Bless The Bride

- 1955 - A Night in Venice (English Premiere)

1956 - The Gondoliers

- 1956 - The Gondoliers

Photos of the cast and those backstage
Includes a picture of the cast and helpers enjoying the traditional afternoon tea between the afternoon and evening performance and a group at the opera ball.

1957 - The Yeomen of The Guard

- 1957 - The Yeomen of the Guard (Golden Jubilee Year)

Principal roles in this G&S production were performed by:
Fred Wood (Cholmondeley)
Frank Clay (Fairfax)
Gerald West (Sgt Merryll)
Jack Hammond (Leonard Merryll)
Ron Smith (Jack Point)
Harry Briddon (Wilfred Shadbolt)
Mary Jones (Elsie Maynard)
Joyce Loverock (Phoebe Merryll)
Margaret Kent (Dame Carruthers)
Doreen Moreton (Kate)

1958 - Pink Champagne

- 1958 - Pink Champagne

"A new version of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss", sometimes referred to as "The Bat".
By arrangement with Samuel French Limited.
Adaptation by Eric Maschwitz and Bernard Grun.

- 1959 - Trial by Jury and The Pirates of Penzance

- 1960 - The Merry Widow

Franz Lehar's operetta was first produced in Vienna in 1905 and in London in 1907. Amateurs were not given permission to perform it until 1958.

White Horse Inn

- 1961 - White Horse Inn

1962 - The Mikado

- 1962 - The Mikado

Produced by Alastair Storey.
The cover design was the same as that used by Chesterfield Amateur Operatic Society in 1955. Frank Clay played Nanki-Poo in both productions.

1963 - The Country Girl

- 1963 - The Quaker Girl

1964 - Passion Flower

- 1964 - Passion Flower

(No programme available)

- 1965 - The Arcadians

(No programme available)

- 1966 - Iolanthe

The Student Prince

- 1967 - The Student Prince (Diamond Jubilee)

- 1968 - The Desert Song

First produced on Broadway in 1926.

- 1969 - Rose Marie

A musical set in the Canadian Rockies.
First produced on Broadway in 1924.

Note from the web mistress:
You may be curious to know why I should be particularly interested in the Operatic Society. My father was a member for some years and played leading tenor roles. Matlock Operatic Society's productions were part of our family's life and have also been enjoyed by several generations of Matlock and District's inhabitants.

Matlock Musical Theatre, formerly Matlock Operatic Society, announced their closure in September 2019. They were finding it difficult to attract members in sufficient numbers and the cost involved in putting on productions was also a deciding factor.

Images from programmes in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Additional images (1935, 1936, 1949, 1968, 1969) provided by and © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Images 1928 and 1932 © Jane Boden collection and that for 1939 © Bernice Stoddart collection.
Images for 1947, 1958, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960 © Maureen Smith collection (© AMS).
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Derbyshire Times", 11 August 1906 (advertisement) and "ibid", 18 August 1906 (report of meeting).

[2] "ibid", 22 September 1906.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", Saturday 9 February 1907.

[4] Various newspapers.

[5] From an announcement in the programme of Passion Flower, 1964. N.O.D.A. is the National Operatic and Dramatic Association.