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Matlock & District Amateur Operatic Society, 1947-49
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At a meeting held at Matlock Town Hall in October 1946 it was decided to revive Matlock and District Amateur Operatic Society, which had been suspended during the Second World War. Those proposing to do so had the backing of Matlock's Attractions Committee, who guaranteed £150 towards expenses. Harold D. Wildgoose was to be the musical director, E. O. Simms was elected chairman and Eric Beardow the secretary[1].

The week commencing 24 March, 1947, was selected for "Opera Week", with "Gypsy Love" as the first choice for the production and "The Geisha" the first reserve. In the event "The Geisha" was chosen and "Opera Week" took place in May 1947[1].

On this page:
The Geisha Girl, May 1947
Goodnight Vienna, 1948
Merrie England, 1949

The Geisha Girl, 20-24 May 1947

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"The Geisha" is a late Victorian two act musical comedy set in Japan. The first act takes place in "The Tea House of Ten Thousand Joys", whilst Act Two was "A Chrysanthemum Fete in the Palace Gardens". The cast of almost 50 people in the first production that was staged at the Cineema House after the war included well known Matlock names from before the war and newcomers such as Joyce Loverock and Alastair Storey who were to appear in numerous post war productions[2].

On the last night Society President John Hadfield presented gifts to F. Banks (producer), H. D. Wildgoose (musical director) and the manager and accompanist (Mr. and Mrs. C. Gale). It was expected that the subscription fund, which has reached £160, would make the opera self-supporting, although there was the assured funding guarantee, already mentioned, if it was needed[3].

In the photo are:

Back row: Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Roy Wildgoose | Alastair Storey | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown |

Standing, 1st row: Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown |

Seated: Edith Gale (accompanist) | Unknown | Unknown | Unknown | Eileen Griffiths (later Redfern) | E. H. Farnsworth? | Unknown | C. Carley (The Marquis Imari) |

Sitting on the floor: Unknown | Clarice Lill (Geisha, Chrysanthemum) | Keith Beardow (Tommy Stanley, midshipman) | Unknown | Joyce Loverock (Geisha, Golden Harp) |
The other two Geishas in this row were I. Howarth and K. Bennett

Goodnight Vienna, 16-20 March 1948

cast members

A local press reporter thought that "Goodnight Vienna" was probably the lightest of the society's productions[4]. Written before the War, it had been chosen as the 1948 production in the autumn of the previous year[5].

Stage Manager Charles Gale and his team (L. Statham, H. Brown, Eric Wilmot and the cinema manager E. Merrival) had worked hard adapting both the stage and its lighting the weekend beforehand, and were complimented on the sets[4].

The reporter's review said the show "offers enchanting scenery, bright and beautiful costumes, some fascinating solo work and dancing, but only the merest thread of a plot". Yet "for one brief evening it whisks patrons away from the austerity and drabness of 1948, and gives them a pleasurable glimpse into happier times[4].

Many who were given principal roles were commended for their singing. E. H. Farnsworth had "a voice of outstanding quality and who is building up a reputation as an opera star", whilst Marjorie Dickens as his leading lady had "a sweet stage personality and an equally sweet soprano voice"; she made the most of the few dramatic situations the play offered. However, the journalist did ask the query the lack of tenors."[4]

Here we see a group of members of the chorus, including Edward Samuel (front row, far left), Claude Rice (front row, far right) and Bernice Stoddart (fourth from the right). This was Edward's first year with the society and Claude's second.

Merrie England, 8-12 March 1949


The production was set in Windsor Town "in the days of Good Queen Bess" and the first act, "The Banks of the Thames", begins with May Day celebrations in full swing. The story involves Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth (Bessie) Throckmorton as well as the Earl of Essex and the Virgin Queen. There's a mix up with a letter sent to Bessie involved, which the Queen had assumed was for her because of the name. It had been handed to her by Essex, who had been given it by a character called Jill-All-Alone. Jill was then accused of being a witch, a serious matter in Tudor England, and was condemned to death[6].

The second act was set in a glade in "Windsor Forest" where Jill had gone. However, the Queen had arranged to meet an apothecary in the same forest to obtain poison but she was frightened by Herne the Hunter, who was said to appear when royalty was about to commit a criminal act, so Queen Bess forgave everybody and Jill's death sentence was commuted[6].

The characters are a mixture of real historical characters and references the legendary to King Neptune, George and the Dragon and Robin Hood; the finale rather curiously being "Now who'll come says Robin Hood". Said Robin had been imported into the wrong century![6]

In the centre of a number of the female cast, with the mob cap, is Joyce Loverock who performed the role of Jill-All-Alone. In the front row are Daphne Radford, soon to become Daphne Rice (on the far left), and Bernice Stoddart (centre).


ticket 1 ticket 2
Tickets for the final performance

1."The Geisha Girl", photograph by Harry Gill..
2. "Goodnight Vienna", photographer unknown.
3. "Merrie England" cast, photograph by Harry Gill.
Images 1, 2 and 3. supplied by and © Bernice Stoddart collection.
Tickets supplied by and © Maureen Smith collection.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
If you have any further information about the identity of anyone in the photographs please let the web mistress know.


[1] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 24 October 1946. Matlock's "Opera Week".

[2] Information from the programme (Maureen Smith collection).

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 May 1947.

[4] "Matlock Amateur Operatic Society. Performance of Goodnight Vienna. Date of newspaper report, written during the 1948 Opera Week, is unknown (Maureen Smith collection).

[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 1 October 1947.

[6] Information from the programme (Susan Tomlinson collection).