Address Broughty Ferry Operatic Society, Burgh Hall, Brook Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, Scotland, UK
Broughty Ferity Operatic Society were founded in 1923, formed by members of the Barnhill Singers- For many years, their productions were devoted to the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and the society chose HMS Pinafore for their opening production. Up until fairly recently, G and S shows figured mainly in their schedule but, like many other societies, have had to turn to musicals in a bid to put “bums on seats”, as the theatrical expression goes.
So, as the big “nine-o” looms, a sense of versatility prevails within the ranks of Broughty with Hello Dolly (last year’s production) followed by Steven Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which was performed a couple of weeks ago in the Gardyne Theatre. This November (2012) will see the society head to the wild and wooly west for Oklahoma!, Rogers and Hammerstein’s well-loved classic. Last year saw the society back in the new look Gardyne after an absence of five years. They consider it their “home”, although the Whitehall Theatre has been their chosen venue on many occasions. The first productions were held in the Good Templar Hall, with Dundee College of Art and the Palais Theater other venues following.
But if performing venues are in reasonably good supply, active members are harder to get hold of, and it’s a problem faced by every musical organization, and not just Broughty, Society vice President Gina Douglas explains.
“Over the years, our numbers have fallen and it’s getting harder to recruit new members,” she says, “When I joined in 2000 for Summer Song, the society was in a healthy state, with a big male chorus and a good number of ladies as well.
We are actively recruiting new members and we hope that Oklahoma! is a big enough attraction. We rehearse every Monday and Wednesday evenings in the Burgh Halls, Brook Street, and would love to welcome any new faces. We are a very friendly lot and can assure you that a good time is had by all! We are particularly looking for men, so if you want to be a farmer or a cowboy, Oklahoma is the show for you!”
Getting audiences is almost as hard as recruiting new members. With the popularity of amateur theatre not nearly as keen as it was in the “old days”, and with the number of societies substantially increased, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a show… is there enough chorus work, is it attractive to audiences and, most important, is it going to break even?
The society’s archives are kept by Garry Fraser, himself an active member of the society for 30 years. It started as a personal collection of pictures, cuttings, programmes and posters but he found himself “inheriting” some older material from retired members and soon the collection grew into a considerable size.
“I’ve got some great stuff from the 1920s, with good old Neil Anderson featuring in some of the classic G and S roles,” he says. “Syd Smith and Jack Underwood also gave me lots of material and it was a question of filing it in the correct decade and making sure it was all kept intact.”
Broughty’s rehearsals resume after the summer break in early August. For anyone interested in joining go to http://www.broughtyopera.co.ukAs you visit ‘Broughty Ferry Amateur Operatic Society’, you may find interest in following listings . . .