Founder’s Note

I entered McGill in 1963 from an English boarding school where my housemaster, a
former naval officer, lived in complete thrall to HMS PINAFORE in particular & the
entire G & S canon in general – his geography lessons were unexpectedly punctuated
by “ songs & snatches ”. A schoolfriend & I shared initially an absorbing interest in
the works of Jelly Roll Morton but when the friend’s brother, up at the University
reading music, was cast as the Judge in TRIAL BY JURY we cunningly applied to
our housemaster for leave to go. We were consequently let off nets or rifle practice or
something with the greatest alacrity. Instantly converted, we spent months fruitlessly
plotting how we could get up something of the kind of our own at school.


So the budding impresario turned up at McGill expecting an instant entrée into
musical theatre. The sole opportunity then lay with the RED & WHITE REVUE, an
original “ Broadway musical “ type of show for which I was graciously permitted to
join the roster of rehearsal pianists. I also accompanied the McGill Choral Society
which occasionally featured G & S choruses in their varied programmes – these
went down equally well with the singers. By degrees I got to know quite a few of
them & the idea came up of meeting regularly & getting up a repertory of operetta
choruses – from there we learnt a series of concerted numbers from the PIRATES. I
was burning to put something on, not least as a result of the then lofty attitude of the
Conservatory towards this bunch of ignorant renegades. One of our number was an
accomplished baritone whom I decided would do very well as the Judge in TRIAL
& a programme took shape. Improvisation reigned : we fell upon Redpath Hall as a
proxy venue for the courtroom, borrowed several academic gowns, Elisabeth Little “
ran up ” little white numbers for the bridesmaids & Norma-Jean as the Bride/Plaintiff
exhumed her débutante dress & threw a veil over it. I accompanied & directed ( if that
is what it was ) from the piano.If I remember accurately, this affair was presented to
an astonished campus as a lunchtime concert on a snowy day in February 1965 & the
Savoy Society was born.


There remained a terrific groundswell of enthusiasm & the ringleaders duly trooped
along the following September to ask for student funding which we got – we
audaciously announced a full-scale production of THE MIKADO for February 1966
in Moyse Hall no less, the Valhalla of the RED & WHITE REVUE. The rest, I think,
is, just about, history ; the RED & WHITE REVUE certainly is. I cannot say how
intensely glad I am that a third generation of McGill students is now benefiting from
the exhilarating & stretching experience of putting on a show with the Society & that
this is again the MIKADO. I do wish I could be there with you. My mind’s eye &
ear will have to make to do with images of the brisk, witty & engaging show you’ve
prepared. Helen Lockwood Davidson ( second Musical Director of the Society ) and
her husband Benedict Lockwood ( an original & valued renegade ) join me in saluting
the entire cast, orchestra & crew.


Robin Alder
Founder & First Musical Director


One response to “Founder’s Note

  1. I was associated as stage director with Robin and Lisa at those very first years of the Savoy Society when it began staging productions in Moyse Hall. I’m as thrilled as he is that the tradition continues with now a third generation. I have staged other G&S productions since my time at McGill, notably for the Saskatoon Opera Association and in 2005 for the Saskatchewan Centenary a production we entitled The Pirates of Penzance SK which was situated on the Saskatchewan River and included Mounties as our police force. We also had permission to integrate the Arrogant Worms’ song “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate” into the score. It was great fun.

    If you could give me Robin’s contact information, I would greatly appreciate it.
    Ian C. Nelson

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