The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Sussex

The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Sussex

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On Sunday 15th March 2015 at 2:45 pm
in the Birch Hotel
Lewes Road, Haywards Heath

We welcomed back one of our Vice Presidents

Stephen A Brown accompanied by
Paul Jeans

1188-001      Stephen A Brown and Paul Jeans

many leading companies.

For more details follow this link:- w

However of particular interest to us is his affinity with Gilbert & Sullivan in which he has performed lead roles Worldwide; such as Colonel Fairfax (Yeoman of the Guard), Captain Fitzbattleaxe (Utopia Limited), Frederic (Pirates), Marco (Gondoliers), Nanki-Poo (Mikado) and Ralph Rackstraw (Pinafore).

Stephen was the speaker at our inaugural meeting May 2011 at Haywards Heath Town Hall.

Stephen’s Programme:-

Stephen gave a comprehensive introduction to the pieces he had selected, I have done my best to summarise this in what follows.  

Three pieces composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan

"Sigh no more"

Balthazar's song from Shakespeare's ‘Much A do about Nothing’.

Itis dedicated to Sims Reeves, It is probable that Sims Reeves lost more money through unfulfilled engagements than any other singer that ever lived. He himself computed the total amount he lost from this during career of half a century, at £80,000.


From Shakespeare's ‘As you like it’.

It is dedicated to William Cummings who had been a chorister with Sullivan at the Chapel Royal. He had a career as a tenor on the concert platform and later became principal of the Guildhall School of Music.

“O Israel”

This was Sullivan's 1st and published composition written 1855 when he was not yet 13 composed whilst he was still a chorister at H.M. Chapel Royalion.

It is dedicated to Mrs. C. V. Bridgman of Tavistock, Devon, the mother of a fellow chorister with whom he was staying on holiday at the time of its composition.

Stephens' commented on the similarity of this piece with the mature Mendelsohn.

At 14 Sullivan entered the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied the piano under Sir William Sturndale Bennett (a famous pianist & composer).

Early in his career, Bennett had writen to Mendelssohn  asking "May I come to be your pupil?" Mendelssohn replied, "No, no. You must come to be my friend".

Three pieces compode by William Sturndale Bennett

"Gentle Zephyr"

The words are by an unknown author.

“Long Long is the Life and heavy comes the morrow”.

Words by Robert Burns.

“Winters Gone, the summer breezes”

‘From The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems’ by John Clare.

Returning to Sir Arthur Sullivan

“Arabian love Song”

1860's interest in Arabia led Sullivan to set this poem of Shelly to music.

A wacky piece using  the Arabian scale, later to be employed in 'Ivanhoe' when Rebeca's sings 'All to our chosen race'.

Two pieces composed by Frederick Emes Clay.

Cantata Lalla Rookh - song "I'll sing thee songs of Araby"

Words by WG Wills.  Lalla Rookh contains perhaps Clay's best-known song, "I'll sing thee songs of Araby", also "Still this golden lull", they were produced successfully at the Brighton Festival in 1877.

James Joyce great fan of Araby.

Sullivan said of him "In all his work Fredrick Clay showed a grateful melody and an appealing rich harmony" and regretted he had died aged 51, his cantata Lalla Rookh was a great inspiration to Sullivan.

Stephen said that this piece always gives him goose bumps at the end of the second verse.

Other Clay work "Happy Arcadia" (operetta; 1 act; libretto by W.S. Gilbert) .

“She Wandered Down the Mountain Side”

Words by B T Stephenson (Stephen did not know this but I managed to find a facimile of the libretto).

Returning again to Sullivan

Thespis aside before they worked on Trial by Jury, Sullivan Set three of Gilbert's poems to music - Distant Shore 1874 -  The Love that Loves me Not 1875 - Sweethearts 1875’

“The Love that loves me Not”

An extraordinary parlour ballad, one can hear echoes of what they would later produce together.


Stephen's favourite of the three, not very sweet.

“A Distant Shore”

Now from Verdi’s Rigoletto

“Questa O Quella”

Stephen commented that every time he hears "Take a pair of sparking eyes" he think is Verdi's "Questa Quella"  slowed down.

Back to Sullivan.

"Free from his fetters grim"

Fairfax's ballad from act 2 of Yeoman of the Guard.

Stephen feels this is very like Verdi, particularly ends of acts 1 & 2.

Edward German, Sir Walter Raleigh's aria from Merrie England.

“Dan Cupid hath a Garden”

Words by Basil Hood.

Stephen’s comment "G&S's influence on musical theatre in England is enormous I am always reminded of Edward German gets a little of a bad rap, he hasn't survived as well as he should have done in this modern era, if we are performing Yeomen of the guard, why not Merry England. I think it is largely due to the book because there is nothing wrong with him as a composer, he didn't have a Gilbert did he? Except for once when he wrote' Fallen Fairy' which again has not survived. As Gilbert said after Sullivan's death 'Gilbert is not good without a Sullivan and I can't find one, even Edward German'. Stephen thinks that 'Merry England' is one of those pieces would not have been written if Sullivan had lived longer because there would have been no need for s new composer.

The afternoon concluded with two pieces by Gounod.

Stephen is a character Tenor, he studied at Trinity College the Royal College of Music, also the Benjamin Britten International Opera School.

As a consequence he has a wide repertoire in many roles from Baroque to Modern Opera with

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1188-003     Stephen A Brown

1188-004      Paul Jeans

1188-002      Ella Tarran

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