Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Centennial of Croydon Stagers Operatic Society; First President Was Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Chamber Music: Fantasiestucke for String Quartet, Op. 5 (20:55); Five Negro Melodies for Piano Trio (18:10); Nonet in F Minor (26:40); Coleridge Ensemble; AFKA SK 543 (1998)

1:30pm Tuesday 18th November 2008
By Graham Moody
When a small band of singers staged Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury at the Stanley Halls in South Norwood a century ago, they had no idea what they were starting. The Catholic Union, as they were called at the time, enjoyed overwhelming success and with famous Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor encouraging them and becoming their first president, the Croydon Stagers Operatic Society was formed. Since then they have put on an amazing 167 major productions and 33 music halls throughout Croydon in long gone venues like the Croydon Empire, Hippodrome and The Grand, before settling on staging their annual productions at Fairfield Halls - becoming the first amateur group to perform there.

David Apps, who began his two-year term as President last month, said: “For the society to still be going after all this time is excellent. “It’s good the people of Croydon have supported it all these years, it was only ever small shows in the beginning.” Despite the mounting costs of performing, Apps is confident that the group can keep running for another 100 years. He said: “The cost of putting on shows goes up each year but we absolutely can continue. “It is good we can bring high quality semi-professional shows to Croydon with big casts and it’s fun to be in as well.”

To mark their centenary this year the Stagers are putting on Anything Goes, a musical comedy set on an ocean-going liner in the 1930s full of Cole Porter classics like I Get a Kick out of You, You’re the Top and Friendship. There’s also a very special actor in the production, Bobby the dog. Abandoned two years ago he was given a home by stalwart Stagers the Miller family and now finds himself the centre of attention among the cast. Stagers spokeswoman Dawn Lambert said: “Our only concern is if he gets too excited and starts barking.” Anything Goes, Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, November 25 to 29, 7.30pm with 3pm matinees on Thurs and Sat, £10 to £17. Call 020 8688 9291 or visit fairfield.co.uk. [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

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