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Stourbridge thespians aboard the Blue Sampan in 1935

By gavin jones  |  Posted: February 02, 2013

Tom Jones as Bob Vincent, Hereward Starkey as Wun Li, and ertrude Webb as Mitzi.

Tom Jones as Bob Vincent, Hereward Starkey as Wun Li, and ertrude Webb as Mitzi.

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WE TOOK A trip back in time, two editions ago, to see Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society bringing The Three Musketeers to the stage in autumn, 1934.

We did so with the aid of a collection of souvenir programmes, loaned to us by Cliff Williams of Rowley Regis, and this week we bring up the curtain on the following year's production: The Blue Sampan.

Such was the standing and the confidence of Stourbridge Operatic Society, they decided to mark their quarter- century with an opera written especially for them, and by two local men; Stanley Guise and James Mainwaring.

The two had previously worked together on music and libretto for a Midlands Pageant. Mainwaring was the society's producer and musical director, as well as a committee member, and wrote the music for the opera.

Guise, who wrote the story and the lyrics, is not listed as a member or performer, but clearly had connections to Mainwaring, if not the society itself.

Of this newly-written production, the souvenir programme notes enthused: "It is surely an appropriate and happy coincidence that 'The Blue Sampan' should mark the Jubilee production of the Society not only on account of its intimate association but also that it affords the unique experience of presenting an entirely new Opera. That 'The Blue Sampan' will ultimately achieve more than a local interest is the earnest hope of the Society.

"The active membership is practically at full strength but the waiting list is always open to applicants desirous of joining the Soceity who should communicate with the Hon.

Secretary. A full member pays an annual subscripion of 5s.

"It is with pleasure we record our appreciation of the valuable services rendered by our secretary Mr Archie A Bateman, during an association of 25 years. Since 1924 Mr Bateman has held the office of honorary secretary, prior to which he was honorary treasurer for some years. The total raised by the Society for local Charities to date is £1,323 15s 2d.

Charity "A minimum of 25% of the gross takings on all productions to Charities is guaranteed in advance. Owing to lack of space we regret it is impossible to mention individually all those who have contributed to the making of this week's production, but reference is due to: Mr Harry Moseley (Messrs Murdoch, Murdoch and Co) for booking office facilities and loan of piano.

The Midland Electric Corporation for Power Distribution Ltd for Electrical Work.

The British Thomson-Houson Co. Ltd. for lamps.

The Revo Electric Co. Ltd.

for floodlights.

The Headmaster, Staff and boys of Oldswinford Hospital for stage work.

“And a special word of appreciation to Madame Blackburn to whom the Society is much indebted for the skilful and beautiful dressing of the mannequins.

"To ALL we tender out grateful thanks. As the result of last year's production of 'The Three Musketeers' a sum of 114 guineas was distributed."

 There are, just as in the previous year's programme, some excellent, professionally taken photographs of the cast in costume, and we reproduce some of them here. But as is often the case with such booklets, from an historical perspective the adverts are equally as interesting to the 21st century reader. What better indicator could you have of the genteel nature of '30s Stourbridge than the advert for 'Miss Marjorie Lee, ARCM, Violinist'? She was leader of the Stourbridge Operatic Society Orchestra, and offered lessons (elementary and advanced) from her home on Compton Road, Wolverhampton.

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