with their full Gentlemen of Japan regalia and wigs, I was mesmerized—I had never seen anything like it. I had seen a production of South Pacific sitting in the same seat in that auditorium at KC. It was great, and Joan Free singing “Happy Talk” was memorable, but the extravagance of The Mikado was extraordinary. Male chorus members snapped their fans like demons in perfect time, singing very loudly, and beautiful women’s voices soared in three parts. I remembered the great supporting characters, a romantic tenor and soprano, and a funny character who sang a song called “Willow, Tit Willow” and another in which he sang a lot of words very quickly. Little did I know at the time that this was the recipe for the success of all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas.
The next year I entered grade 9 at KC and performed in my first G&S show, Trial by Jury, conducted by George Maybee and accompanied by two piano players. Costumes weren’t nearly as elaborate as The Mikado, and it wasn’t a very long show, but that production was my first ever G&S operetta at KC. In the years that followed, during the heyday of G&S at KC, I was lucky enough to perform in Yeomen of the Guard, Patience, and HMS Pinafore. I can remember taking one or two of the G&S shows on the road! How did they ever do that? We performed in high schools in Belleville, Brockville, Napanee and Clayton NY. In Clayton the men’s dressing room was the football locker room. When we performed in Napanee my pasted-on beard fell halfway off mid-solo so I turned around, pulled it all off, turned back and finished my solo, not skipping a beat. Many years later I returned to that school as Head of Music for 10 years.
I didn’t get a chance to experience the joys of Gilbert & Sullivan again until I returned to Kingston from Western University, and began teaching in the area. I was asked to prepare and conduct rehearsals for a Kingston Meistersinger production of … The Mikado! Brian Jackson was going to come in two weeks prior to opening and take over but I prepared the cast until his arrival. I would later get a chance to conduct my own G&S show at the Grand Theatre in another Kingston Meistersinger production of Patience. The accompanying photo is me at a rehearsal for The Gondoliers in 1993, and the youngster I am holding is none other than my daughter Charlotte, one of the soloists at this G&S Spectacular Singalong!
The Kingston Meistersingers would continue to mount a G&S production every now and then, but the high school shows were replaced by Broadway musicals and the annual Kinsmen musical was never a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. My wife Hollie Stewart did direct another production of The Mikado at KCVI which was remounted during that school’s 200th anniversary celebration, with alumni joining the cast of high school students on stage for one performance. In my last few years of teaching I had the privilege of being musical director for a KCVI production of The Pirates of Penzance. What a thrill it was for me, not only to be teaching singing back at KC, but teaching soloists and chorus the music from probably Gilbert and Sullivan’s greatest musical achievement. The Pirates of Penzance at KCVI was, and still is, a great memory for me.
As you see, Gilbert and Sullivan have always been a part of my life. I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to present the Kingston Choral Society in concert with soloists Charlotte Stewart-Juby, Elisabeth Santos and Lee Clapp—three young artists at the beginning of their careers—and two seasoned veterans of the Kingston Stage, G&S in particular, Richard Linley and John Hall, for an afternoon of singalong songs and choruses.
No need to dust off those scores, you can if you want to, but we will have words for you and a few musical scores for altos, tenors and basses to sing from. It would be a wonderful occasion to meet and catch up with some former school chums, cast members, and maybe even some young people who, like myself in grade 8, might be exposed to Gilbert and Sullivan for the first time.
See you all on May 31st at 2:30 in Sydenham Street United Church.
Ian Juby with daughter Charlotte Stewart-Juby rehearsing The Gondoliers in 1993
Richard Linley, Savoyard and Host "W. S. Gilbert"
Richard is an ex-pat Hamiltonian who lives in Kingston with his wife, Heidi, and a couple of cats. He has been active in community theatre for many years, and currently serves on the board of directors at Lennox Community Theatre in Napanee. His interest in Gilbert and Sullivan began during his time as a student at York University when he was stuck for an essay topic for a drama course called "Music In the Theatre." While working at York after graduation, he directed a couple of G&S shows there, and soon became involved in the rather extensive Toronto Savoyard Opera scene. It was at the first rehearsal for a production of Princess Ida that he met Heidi. On moving to Kingston in the early 80s, and finding G&S productions rather harder to come by, he broadened his interests a little and dabbled in performing in or directing a few newer (but not really new) musicals and non-musical stage plays. With Heidi and a group of friends he formed the local murder mystery company, Partners In Crime, and contributed several scripts to that effort. More recently, he has written and directed a few holiday pantomimes, a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and, in 2012, an historical drama about the War of 1812 (next due for production in 2112, perhaps).