H.M.S. Pinafore in Greenwich

Curiosity Concerts presents H.M.S. Pinafore at the Greenwich Library

The Greenwich Arts Council’s Curiosity Concerts, partnering the Greenwich Choral Society, presents Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore in concert in the Cole Auditorium of the Greenwich Library on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 2p.m. The Library is located at 101 W. Putnam Avenue. 

Six soloists and a chorus of more than 30 voices will perform a one hour condensation of the beloved comic opera composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan to a libretto by Sir William S. Gilbert.

The soloists, all members of the Greenwich Choral Society, are Kyle Healy as the lovely Josephine, Jon Hunt as the handsome sailor Ralph Rackstraw, David Heap as Sir Joseph Porter, his rival, Cathy Cavender as Sir Joseph’s loyal Cousin Hebe, GCS Music Director and Conductor Paul F. Mueller does double duty as Captain Corcoran on board the Pinafore and on the podium. Jamielee Page is Little Buttercup. Because…that is her name…though she could never tell why.

Shelly Cryer, producer of Curiosity Concerts

Shelly Cryer, producer of Curiosity Concerts

OperaMetro talked to Shelly Cryer, the creator and producer of Curiosity Concerts, now in their second year through the Greenwich Arts Council, and also Armenay Merritt, now in her second year as President of the Greenwich Choral Society.

OM: Shelly, why H.M.S. Pinafore?

SC: Because Pinafore is fun for all ages and it fit easily within the mission of Curiosity Concerts, which is to make various kinds of good music accessible to local audiences in a format that is audience friendly, convenient and affordable.

AM: And also Paul Mueller, our Music Director of the Greenwich Choral Society, is a huge Gilbert and Sullivan fan. In fact, he’ll be singing the role of the Captain. This, as well as the availability of seasoned soloists drawn from our Chorus, and the fact that Sullivan’s music and Gilbert’s lyrics could be adapted to a smaller scale to fit the venue and the time made it an excellent choice.

OM: Ah, so it’s not the complete H.M.S. Pinafore with the masts, topsails, rigging, “When the balls whistle free o’er the bright blue sea, we stand to our guns all day…” No cannons?

AM: No, no cannons. But we’re singing that great opening chorus of course.

SC: The format for the Curiosity Concerts limits us to a running time of about one hour and the size of the performance is limited to the space available to us in whatever venue, in this case the Cole Auditorium of the Greenwich Library. There will be some nautical props, but, no, not elaborate sets or costumes. No hornpipes. It’s a concert performance essentially.

OM: The admission to the Curiosity Concerts is free, yes?

SC: Yes, but reservations are required due to space. I’m happy to say that almost every seat has been taken for our concerts, both this and last season. Reservations can be made through the Curiosity Concerts website. Please visit us for further information about the program and about us.

OM: You created Curiosity Concerts with a mission. Inspired by…?

SC: I grew up with musicians, my husband is a conductor. It’s obviously a very central part of my life, my family’s life. But in particular I feel very strongly that live musical performances are special events, more so than just music on a CD, on the radio, or with an iPod. These are shared experiences that bring all present, all involved, the performers, the audience, even those backstage together. There’s a wonderful magic to be found in live performances. But, sadly these days, often live music is really expensive. For someone local who is curious, looking to sample in this case Gilbert and Sullivan, or maybe introduce their kids to G & S without running up big costs of money, travel, and also time, our local Curiosity Concerts are here for them. I should add that the concerts are not just for kids, nor are they always ‘classical.’ We have jazz. But whatever we do, the performers are all first rate professionals, members of the established musical institutions in Greenwich and surrounding communities. I feel that there are a lot of persons, parents, kids, retired folks who just might want to take advantage of an easy way to sample and enjoy great live music.

AM: From our perspective, the partnership with Curiosity Concerts gives us a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the community that has supported us all along. The Greenwich Choral Society has been performing the great choral works locally for 90 years. This Concert gives new audiences a chance to hear us and maybe want to hear more in the future.

OM: I’ve always felt it’s an important thing for parents and their kids to experience musical events together. Funny, but H.M.S. Pinafore was the first G & S in our house. I remember my father gathering us around the TV (it was a telecast of a Canadian production as I recall). Watching him laugh and even sing snatches of the songs was as much fun as the opera itself. Seventh grade. Mikado at the New York City Center next…wow! I still love it.

SC: Exactly, and I, my children, and my husband have shared the same experiences. They’re embracing, enriching, life enhancing. Unforgettable, really.

OM: On the same page, Shelly. Making opera friendly is what OperaMetro is all about actually. Best wishes. And thank you both!

Poster art for Curiosity Concerts

Poster art for Curiosity Concerts

Briefly the plot for the kids: Josephine, the Captain’s daughter, loves a common sailor on board the H.M.S. Pinafore, one Ralph Rackstraw, but she’s supposed to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. Poor Josephine! Should she honor her father’s wishes and marry a Lord, be set for life, or follow her heart, sneak off the ship to elope with Ralph? All seems lost when her father snags the lovers, but “Little Buttercup,” a well-known dock side peddler with a very important long held secret, turns everything upside down at the last minute.

Don’t miss it! Trust me, this could be the start of something big! Isn't there a song...?

By the way, drop a note to operametromail@gmail.com for recommendations of the best CD or DVD versions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. Sadly, no time to write the full discography up now, as I did for the NYGASP Ruddigore this fall. Busy.

Photo of Ms. Cryer: Kim Washam.

Please visit the Greenwich Choral Society’s website for more about the Curiosity Concert version of H.M.S. Pinafore and their season schedule, etc.