A Short History of the Swanage Musical Society

The original society existed before the war with many well known family members taking part in productions: Bob and Marion Cann (Harris), Eve Woolfries (Powell), Marjorie and Biddy Kendrick, Cynthia Bradford, P.H. Cox and J.P. Ellis of Durlston Court School and the very young Eric Gosney to name just a few. The Society performed two operas a year including "The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein",
"Tom Jones", "The Emerald Isle" and "Les Cloches de Comeville". These were all performed on the pocket handkerchief stage at the old Mowlem Theatre under the able musical direction of Edwin Farwell, a teacher at Forres School. On the outbreak of the war, Forres School moved away and with it Edwin Farwell. The men and women joined up to serve King and Country and the thriving society was

Now on to 1953 when Marion Harris, Eve Powell, Bob Cann and others of the pre-war society thought it a good time to re-form the society. What better time could there have been than the year of the Coronation and what better show than "Merrie England" to perform! Rehearsals took place at the Tithe Barn during the Summer of 1953 and the performances from the 11 th to 14th November at the Grand Theatre, Station Road.

Just 'a little aside': We were short of male chorus members but were told "there was no need to worry as twelve men from Wareham who knew the show were going to join us!" We hope that they will find Swanage before our next production "Kiss Me Kate".

It may be of interest to know that there are four members on stage this evening who were in that show: Brenda Bradford, Eric Gosney, Eddie Wright (who played string bass) and me, Mike Keats. There are a further fourteen still around to tell the tale - of those, Bill Bradford and David Bale have taken an active part over many years.

The Society can be justly proud of the formation of the Junior Section whose first production was "Bugsy Malone" in 1995 followed by shows on a yearly basis (all listed). The last production was "Annie" in 2001. The young people-at present numbering about fifty-act and sing in concerts, learn stagecraft and make-up skills. Some are pursuing careers in the theatre and these we wish well.

In 1987-with the co-operation of the Town Council the Society's headquarters and rehearsal hall was built at the Swanage Caravan Park. The parquet flooring, suspended ceiling, doors and radiators were all removed by society members from the Grosvenor Hotel
when it was demolished. They were all used in the newly constructed hall. The most recent venture was the construction of a scenery store on the same site. Both of these enterprises were fully funded by the S.C.O.S.!

Since the production of "Oklahoma" in 1979 the Society has been winning awards of excellence in performance, production, music, scenery and costumes. These awards-another three nominations this year-are sponsored by the "Echo" and awarded annually. The Society also gains recognition and is highly praised by the N.O.D.A. representative in the national magazine. In 2002 we were awarded two NODA awards for the production of "The Pirates of Penzance". These can be seen in the showcase outside the theatre door.

Our aim for the future is to entertain you, the audience, and in so doing enjoy ourselves!

Awarded best Set for the production of Railway Children in 2010.