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How Summer Song brightened up a wet night in Stourbridge

By gavin jones  |  Posted: March 30, 2013

The dancers pose in the woods at Kinver.

The dancers pose in the woods at Kinver.

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WE REALLY STIRRED up something when we reproduced images from an early Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society show a few weeks ago. The response has been brilliant, and enables us this week to take you back to the society’s production of Summer Song, thanks to their former choreographer Derek Bradley of Kidderminster.

Derek was in that role when Summer Song brought a bit of muchneeded sunshine to Stourbridge in November 1967, and he has loaned us the programme from it.

The play was based on the life of the Czech composer Anton Dvorak, whose most famous work was the New World Symphony.

Set in America, where he made his reputation, it tells the story of his arrival amongst Czech immigrants in the US, includes a fair bit of intrigue for good measure, and concludes with the unveiling of the New World Symphony, his tribute to his adopted homeland.

As always, Derek also kept clippings of press reviews, and one from an unidentified paper, which we reproduce here, left the reader in no doubt that Summer Song was a great success from its opening night. Its writer enthused: “A miserable autumn night Saturday may have been, but Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society brought a breath of the warmer seasons with their opening night performance of ‘Summer Song’ at Stourbridge Town Hall.

“More than a breath — it was a sparkling performance.

“It is rare for an amateur society to receive three curtain calls on an opening night. That was the sort of show it was — effervescent, like a good champagne.

“The cast sensed the enthusiastic response from the audience and put all they had into it.

While nothing is perfect, it would be disparaging to point out faults.

Audience “The sole disappointing feature was ths size of the audience. The society deserves a full house every night this week if they can keep up the cracking pace set on Saturday.

“The main part of Anton Dvorak was played by Michael Bowen. In a tremendous performance, he showed Dvorak as being so superior without being egotistical.

Lashings of humour were liberally dished out by a scintillating Dianne Thornhill as Milli and the irrepressible Neville Bastable as Joe.

Deirdre Cooper, as Karolka, with her fine voice, yet again showed herself as one of the stars of her society.

“Due to the indisposition of Neil Thomas, Michael Dowding stepped in to take the important role of Shaun. This is the first time Michael has played a part aywhere — let alone a principal role.

“With his pleasant voice and affable, though strong manner, the society has gained an excellent recruit.

“Dora Hartley, as Ma Flanagan, symbolised, as did all the principals, how ‘professional’ this amateur society can be.

“Barry Dillon as Abe, a negro, was marvellous.

His rendering of Coton Tail was a star performance. Tom Brookes was an ideal Uncle Marek.

“Musical direction was by John Griswold and choreography by Derek Bradley. A nice touch was a ‘striptease’ by Nancy Payton. The dancing was the best the society has put over for a number of years.” Such has been the response to items on Stourbridge Operatic Society in recent weeks, we’ll be bringing you more in forthcoming editions.

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