Friday, 7 July 2017
The Political and Social satire of Gilbert and Sullivan
Speakers: Bernard Lockett and Neil Smith
May and June have been musical months for U3A Todmorden. In May, members enjoyed the return of Bernard Lockett whose talk focused on the political and social satire of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Pillars of the establishment?
It’s hard to imagine Gilbert and Sullivan as anything other than pillars of the establishment, but Bernard Lockett showed us that their brilliance lies in the way the bite of Gilbert’s satire gains acceptability through the softening effect of Sullivan’s music.
Attended by all classes
Nevertheless, Bernard proposed that since G&S performances were attended by all classes of society, one can imagine the lower classes in the gallery enjoying a laugh at the expense of the socially elevated in the stalls.
Such laughter would, for example, have come at the expense of Parliament (‘Iolanthe’), the Law (‘Trial by Jury’) or corruption in government (‘The Mikado’).
Offering high office to unsuitable men
The practice of offering high office to unsuitable men is highlighted by ‘the ruler of the Queen’s Navy’ in ‘HMS Pinafore’. This opera spotlights the fact that the stationery magnate, W.H. Smith, a man of no marine experience, had been shoehorned into the Admiralty as its First Sea Lord. (Bernard pointedly observed that there are today 42 Admirals in the Royal Navy even though it does not have that many ships.)
Role of women
Gilbert’s social commentary is often acute. ‘Princess Ida’ advocates the role of women in society to clear up the mess that men – who ‘at best are but a monkey shaved’ - have made of it. It makes the case for university education and votes for women.
And in ‘Utopia Limited’, one critic has observed that ‘English prudery, English conversation, English company promoting, the English party system, the English War Office and Admiralty, the County Council, and the English Cabinet’ are all taken to task.
Once again, Bernard’s talk was illustrated with DVD excerpts from the operas which were highly entertaining and reminded us that although the operas are considered ‘light’, they offer substantial challenges to the singers.
Neil Smith in June, by contrast, offered us musical entertainment of a delightfully different and varied kind. Neil’s reputation as an international guitarist is among the highest, and together with his skill and musicality in styles ranging through classical, rock and jazz, he has clearly enjoyed a rich, rewarding and, occasionally, bizarre life.
These unusual experiences include being Molotov-cocktailed in Belfast, a performance for Blair and Clinton that was interrupted several times by an argument among their aides, avoiding a honey trap in a Moscow hotel, being bodyguarded by a Greek national hero, ‘Tassos’, and just missing the chance to go to Hamburg as a fill-in guitarist for The Beatles.
Neil has played for people such as Elizabeth Taylor, The Queen Mother, the Red Army in Transylvania, and General Sheikh Mahtoum III. His performances around the world at embassies are innumerable and include an encounter with an embassy 007 who quizzed him on the USSR and Arabia.
Alan Fowler and Nigel Plant
This wonderfully varied anecdotal talk was punctuated by lovely short excerpts on the guitar – Greek dance music, Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto, the March of King Brian Boru and others. Neil’s talk was well balanced, delightfully engaging and a tribute to good musicianship.
Our homegrown showcase speakers have been Alan Fowler (Social History) and Nigel Plant (Photography).
Alan’s knowledge and expertise are prodigious, and his group’s main focus is on the history of 20th century northern textile towns. They make use of autobiographies and Mass Observation documents. They have a current ambition to study Todmorden local papers from 1918 as a turning point in the town’s manufacturing life.
Nigel is an experienced photographer with 20 years’ experience of clubs at national and international level. Sometimes the group runs sessions on camera technique (filters, tripods, range, shutter speed etc.), but generally bases sessions on looking at members’ photographs. They also mount their own occasional exhibitions in the Information Centre, and organise outings.
Todmorden U3A’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, 20th July in the Central Methodist Church in Todmorden at 1.45. This meeting will our AGM followed by a talk by Geoff Tansey titled ‘Food: Wars or Peace? Challenges and Opportunities in 21st Century’.
Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Professor Scott Scores a Euro-Hit with speaker Professor Derek Scott of Leeds University (10 May 2017)
HebWeb News: Old Flames and Steamy Memories. With speaker Granville Dobson (9 April 2017)
HebWeb News: Titus Salt – Philanthropic Paternalist or Capitalist Villain? With speaker Maria Glot (2 March 2017)
HebWeb News: Shaking Hitler's Hand (by proxy) - with speaker Alun Pugh (12 Feb 2017)
HebWeb News: Masterclass on Gilbert and Sullivan at U3A Todmorden - with speaker Bernard Lockett (28 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Moses Holden, Autodidact of Preston - with speaker Steve Halliwell (7 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Volunteering in Palestine and Guatemala - with speaker David Gilman (9 Aug 2016)
HebWeb News: Snow, Permafrost, Insects, Iron - with speaker Dr Frank Nicholson (7 July 2016)
HebWeb News:Stranger in a Strange Land - with speaker Gill Russell (7 May 2016)
HebWeb News:Life with polio and a career as a TV and Radio presenter. with speaker Jane Shepherd (12 June 2016)
HebWeb News:Small in a Tall Person's World with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE (31 March 2016)
HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)
HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)
HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)
HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)
HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)
HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)
HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)
HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)
HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)
HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)
HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century