Kirkcaldy’s enduring love of Gilbert & Sullivan

The Gondoliers

The Gondoliers

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75th anniversary of company but performances stretch back centuries

Kirkcaldy Gilbert & Sullivan Society is marking a special milestone next month.

Yeoman of the Guard

Yeoman of the Guard

The society will toast its 75th anniversary on March 22 and the members will celebrate by performing their latest production, ‘Iolanthe’, at the Adam Smith Theatre.

That night they will also stage an anniversary dinner at Dunnikier House Hotel, Kirkcaldy, with a special concert in the Old Kirk on June 6.

The town’s links to Gilbert & Sullivan extend back through the centuries - their work was performed here as early as the 1870s.

In 1866 Kirkcaldy Musical Society was formed - it was composed of both instrumentalists and singers - and it evolved into Kirkcaldy Choral and Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society.

Kirkcaldy Gilbert and Sullivan Society performed 'The Mikado' in 2000

Kirkcaldy Gilbert and Sullivan Society performed 'The Mikado' in 2000

By the 1870s it was decided to produce one of G&S’ Operettas, ‘HMS Pinafore’, and it was then performed in 1878 in the Corn Exchange which stood where part of Kirkcaldy’s main shopping centre, the Mercat, is today.

This was followed by a performance of ‘Patience’ in 1892.

When Adam Smith Halls opened in 1899, ‘The Gondoliers’ featured on the opening night, and that led to the creation of KAOS - Kirkcaldy Amateur Operatic Society in
1907.

Kathleen Brown, chairman of Kirkcaldy G & S, said: “KAOS continued to perform the works of Gilbert & Sullivan until 1921. The new musicals of the day were becoming popular and KAOS’ last performed a G&S Operetta in 1927 was ‘The Mikado’.’’

Elinor McHatton as a fairy in 'Iolanthe' at the age of just 17.

Elinor McHatton as a fairy in 'Iolanthe' at the age of just 17.

Throughout the 1930s there were varying bodies of thought about what to perform; some wanting the new musicals of the day, and others wanting to continue with the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

In 1939 a group of enthusiasts for G&S met in Stuart’s café in Kirkcaldy. Dr Maxwell proposed that a Gilbert & Sullivan Society be formed and Baillie Collyer seconded - the motion was carried unanimously.

A committee was then formed with George Whyte as president, Baillie Collyer (vice-president), J. Pettigrew, Commercial Bank, (hon treasurer), Donald McIntosh (hon secretary), and committee members Miss Burton, Miss Hughes, Dr Maxwell, Mr W Burt, Mr R Brodie and Mr N Hampton.

The new Kirkcaldy Gilbert & Sullivan Society agreed to perform ‘The Gondoliers’ the next winter, but the outbreak of war saw those plans put on hold. It was not until 1950 that they managed to put on the full show in the Adam Smith Halls.

Kathleen continued: “Since that point in time, the Society has produced a G&S Operetta most years, occasionally deviating on a few occasions to a similar style of work such as ‘Merrie England’, ‘Pink Champagne’ and ‘La Vie Parisienne.’

“Numbers have varied. At its largest there were over 60 on stage in the early 1980s with little space to turn around. This year there will be 40 on stage and at present there are more gentlemen than ladies which is quite unusual!”

Today the society continues to flourish with a growing number of youngsters enjoying the wonderful harmonies of Sullivan and the wit of Gilbert and, in many ways, it is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.

This year Kirkcaldy Gilbert and Sullivan Society will produce ‘Iolanthe’ in the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy with four performances from Thursday, March 13 – Saturday, March 15 (evenings at 7.30 p.m and Saturday matinee at 2.30 p.m.) Tickets are available from Lia on (01592) 566353, at the Adam Smith Box Office or the Society’s Web Site at www.kirkgandss.co.uk

Elinor McHatton is the longest standing member of the Society on stage this year. She performed as a fairy in “Iolanthe” at the age of just 17.

She said: “Being a member of Kirkcaldy Gilbert & Sullivan Society over many years has given me the greatest of pleasure and I have made so many good and supportive friends. It has kept me young!”