The speaker, Dr Francis Burroughes, started by singing the first two verses of “Don’t put your daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington”, the title of his talk.
Dr Burroughes was a trained musician and conductor and he went on to talk about his life in producing and conducting local operatic societies. He talked of the hiring of costumes, the dressing rooms or lack of them in Yeovil, and regretted the passing of the wonderful titles of the past, illustrating his point with a historic recording of “An English Rose” by Sir Edward German, sung in 1927.
The speaker then moved on to Chipping Norton, where he founded the Operatic Society, which was distinct from the Dramatic Society, producing some competition in the town. He produced an operetta called “Veronique” He told the story of one production in the town hall, which had a live donkey in the cast, all went well at the rehearsals, but on the actual night the donkey would not leave the stage, and remained for the last duet. This led to headlines in the local paper saying “One more Donkey in the Council chamber” having a dig at the local councillors.
Another production was of “The Merry Widow” by Franz Lehar, with the famous song “Vilja”. All was going well with much anticipation for the well known number, when the local fire service decided to practise their sirens! However, we were rewarded with a wonderful 1932 recording of the song sung by Richard Tauber. Dr Burroughs moved on to Chard, where the whole civic team including the Mayor came to his production, but the interval drinks and nibbles proved too much for the Mayoress, who managed to fall into the orchestra pit!
In the tiny opera house in Bridport, Dr Burroughes produced “Perchance to Dream” by Ivor Novello, with the wonderful number “We’ll gather lilacs in the spring again”. This involved a great number of costume changes, and the leading man had a bright orange wig. There were various problems, culminating in the over production of cloud, by the props man pouring too much water on the dry ice, so that the singers could not be seen, the leading man flung off his wig into the orchestra pit in exasperation. However, we were rewarded again by a lovely rendition of “We’ll gather lilacs” sung by Ann Ziegler and Webster Booth.
The meeting was concluded by our chairman, Lady Mary Badge thanking Dr Burroughes for a very amusing and enjoyable talk.