The Early Years
1902, September 8th: Meeting held at The Masonic Club - 11 gentlemen, 9 ladies. Proposed: "That it is desirable to form an amateur operatic society in the Town."
After electing a Committee with Officers, one resolution was 'Tuesdays to be the night for practices'. The Society continues to rehearse on Tuesday nights to this day!
1902, September 11th - resolution passed: 'That the name of the Society be The Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic Society, that the first practice be held at the Masonic Hall on Tuesday 23rd, and that notice thereof be put in the Bury Press and Bury Post'.
The first record of 'Dramatic' being added to the name is in the programme for Iolanthe in 1920. The first record of a play being performed is of His House in Order in 1923.
Prominent on the Committee, and eventually elected Chairman, was Mr Owen A Clark - as Mayor, a well-known figure in the town - who was also active in seeing that the Theatre Royal was restored in 1906. Mr Clark was a noted amateur singer/actor, and took leading roles in several of the Society's productions; he was also Musical Director on occasion.
1903, April 29th - 30th: The first performances - two only - of HMS Pinafore at the Theatre Royal. The press reviews were enthusiastic:
What must be described as a brilliant performance was brought to a close amidst great excitement and enthusiasm with the singing of Rule Britannia and God Save the King, and the crowded audience dispersed thoroughly satisfied with the evening's entertainment, and expressing the unanimous opinion that Bury St Edmunds had reason to be proud of its newly-established Amateur Operatic Society. That the organisation may have a long, useful and prosperous future before it must be the wish of all who visited the Theatre Royal on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
The Bury Post: The balance sheet showed receipts £102 7s/2d; expenditure £102 7s/2d.
Unfortunately, no programme of the first performances has been handed down in the records. The only photograph of the cast available is on a newspaper cutting from the Bury Free Press. This was in the feature article for the Society's Diamond Jubilee in 1962. The first Secretary of the Society, Mr George Carter, was interviewed for this article (he was 87 at the time), and identified himself in the front row of the photograph. Mr Carter died in July 1962; he was a founder-member of the Society, and was with it for 60 years.
1903, October - resolution in Committee: 'That the Society be affiliated to the National Society of Amateur Operatic Societies'. They meant the National Operatic & Dramatic Association, NODA, of which we have continued to be members ever since. NODA was formed in 1899. The Society has hosted a NODA Eastern conference three times so far in its history, in November 1935, March 1952 and again at a Theatre weekend in April 2002. We are privileged to enjoy the benefits and friendships of the NODA theatrical "family".
1904 The second production was The Mikado. Only a photocopy appears in the records. If only we had the original ...
1905 Patience - the first original programme to appear in the records.