A Show Goes On And It's Another Milestone (26 April 1974)
The Milton Keynes Amateur Operatic society – formerly the Bletchley Amateur Operatic Society – reach a notable milestone this year. For Viva Mexico which they are beginning at Wilton Hall, Bletchley, on Saturday, May 4, will be their 21st annual production.
Over the years the members have given many fine shows and I have reported them all for the Gazette. Yet I suppose it is only natural that I should recall with special pleasure the very first of them. This was Lilac Time, which had a five-day run at Wilton Hall in May 1954.
In the years following the end of the second world war Bletchley had been suffering a kind of musical doldrums. True, this was being relieved to a certain extent by the passing success of the Bletchley Town Band and by the performance of various religious musical works by local church choirs.
The Community Centre Ladies Choir, formed in 1948, was helping to brighten the musical scene. There was also an attempt to revive the old choral society. Concert versions of two or three operas were in fact given, but for single nights only.
This was in sharp contrast to the old days, when Bletchley had been a highly musical town for its size. There had been week-long productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Mrs. F.M. Tull, of Lennox Road, told me of a time when she had attended the rehearsals of no fewer than five different choral societies in a single week.
How to re-awaken that interest and especially how to infuse the town with more sweetness and light by the holding of operatic weeks was the problem of the early 1950’s.
The opportunity arose when Cllr. Ron Stanford, chairman of the council’s new amenities committee, after being in touch with various interested people, called a meeting for the express purpose of forming an amateur operatic society. The response was enthusiastic and the upshot was Lilac Time and all the productions which have followed.
Mr. Fred Wells was the producer and Mr. Ray Holdom the musical director. Mr. Wells had produced good dramas for the Bletchco Players and now was to produce many operas as well.
The society have always had the help of people interested both in operatics and in the Bletchco Players, especially behind the scenes, but frequently on stage besides.