The Pirates of Penzance from Scratch

MICHAEL DRAKE King's Lynn Festival: King's Lynn Corn Exchange


It is many years since I launched my piratical career (as a tenor, you understand). As an ex-Josephine also, having been brought up with Gilbert and Sullivan around the family piano – like most of the audience on Tuesday evening I imagine – it's a case of once a Savoy operetta fan always a G&S enthusiast, ready to burst into a well- loved chorus.

Building on last year's successful “scratch” show, half-a-dozen experienced principals joined us in this tale of metamorphosis of pirates into reformed noblemen and, after a somewhat light-hearted rehearsal under music director and accompanist Ian McMillan's control and cutting remarks – particularly regarding the required girlie “shrieks” and the timing of the boys' plodding grunts – we sang our harmonious hearts out for him in the familiar choruses, but his adaptation worked.

Did ever a ladies' chorus chat so? All in the cause of the performance, of course.

Did ever gentlemen remain so reticent?

While the principals, colourfully dressed and with impeccable diction, kept the action moving and looked as if they enjoyed it, the Sergeant of Police, in particular, exercised his authority and had the audience chorus in the palm of his hands and truncheon and the “tan-ta-rahs” echoed to his instructions.

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Like the hero Frederic, a grown-up but by birthdays only “a little boy of five”, we were little boys (and girls) at heart.

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