QUITE A SIGHT: Barnard Castle Operatic Society’s first production was 1904’s Trial by Jury, also by Gilbert and Sullivan
QUITE A SIGHT: Barnard Castle Operatic Society’s first production was 1904’s Trial by Jury, also by Gilbert and Sullivan

THE launch of a new musical theatre group in the dale prompted Mercury readers Wallace and Marilyn Anderson to get in touch.

Adorning a wall in the hall at their home in Heighington are two pictures from the early years of the last century when Gilbert and Sullivan was all the rage.

Both are cast pictures of Barnard Castle Operatic Society productions – a 1904 version of Trial By Jury and HMS Pinafore from 1911.

Mrs Anderson explained: “Quite a few years ago, Parkin Raine held an exhibition and those pictures were part of it.

“I have always produced Gilbert and Sullivan operettas so I ordered them. The costumes are just incredible.

“The first picture, from 1904, was their first production and I presume the picture was taken outside the old Victoria Hall, in Birch Road. Gilbert and Sullivan was very much the thing in those days.”

The couple grew up in Barnard Castle – Mr Anderson’s father used to have the Clark’s shoe shop in town – where Marilyn discovered her love for musical theatre.

She was a member of the St Mary’s Players and aged seven played Snow White in one of the group’s shows.

“Fred Ferguson, one of the masters at Barnard Castle School, was musical director, and Dennis Kidd produced a lot of stuff in Barnard Castle. June Williams was soprano. That would probably have been about the early 1960s,” recalled Mr Anderson.

After moving to Heighington, Mrs Anderson continued her association with musical theatre, producing shows in the village for more than 20 years.

The couple maintain links with Barney as members of Teesdale U3A, which meets monthly at The Witham.

They got in touch after reading about the launch of Teesdale Operatic Society, which has organised an open meeting on Thursday, March 5, at Barnard Castle Methodist Church Hall.

The doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start and anyone interested in getting involved in the group is welcome to go along.

Anyone interested but who is unable to get along is welcome to attend taster sessions on Thursday, March 12, and Thursday, March 19, also at the Methodist Church Hall. Doors open 6.45pm for a 7pm start.

The group is planning a concert at The Witham on June 12 to raise funds to help cover start-up costs before beginning rehearsals for the society’s first show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, which will be staged in December.

For more details, go to www.teesdaleoperaticsociety.co.uk or find the group on Facebook.