Here we have a memory from Brian covering the early days of his illustrious musical career and those of others at Grangefield. In addition we have gathered together some programmes from events at both the Boys and Girls schools from around this time.
YEOMEN OF THE GUARD - 1964 - by Brian Humpherson
Fellow Grangefield alumni might be interested to see these old programmes of GGS concerts and productions in the 60s. I’m sure you will recognise and identify with many of the names listed, especially those who have attended our reunions in recent years.
I’ll never forget the occasion when I was asked to stay behind at the end of the school day, and found myself in a classroom with Mr. Tiesing (Trog) and the music teacher Mr. Shute. I was asked to stand in the back corner of the room and sing something unaccompanied. I assumed they wanted to check my vocal range and see whether I could sing in tune. I haven’t a clue what I sang but it certainly wasn’t in our Cyclones repertoire! However, they seemed to be quite pleased with my performance, informing me that my ‘audition’ had landed me the part of Leonard Meryll in the upcoming school G & S production of ‘Yeomen of the Guard’!
My reaction was rather mixed - pleased to have been offered the part, but at the same time feeling a sense of dread at having to perform on stage, probably dressed in some ridiculous costume. A bit of a contrast from fronting the Cyclones at an Eaglecliffe Village Hall dance! Fortunately it was only a small part, so my stage debut was fairly brief, even with a short re-appearance in Act 2. I was more concerned that the opening night would be on my birthday! A member of the orchestra, viola player Austin Melia, said how pleased he was to see someone from one of these new Rhythm Groups taking part in a Gilbert & Sullivan production. His friendly words gave me some encouragement and boosted my confidence.
At college my stage career went from strength to strength. I played the part of half a fairy, when I was cast as Strephon in ‘Iolanthe’. I’m not quite sure what I must have done in the audition to secure the part, but luckily I was only a fairy down to the waist. Unfortunately that would only allow me to squeeze halfway through a keyhole! On another occasion I played the part of Aeneas, in a production of Purcell’s opera ‘Dido and Aeneas’. The libretto included some memorable lyrics and I remember having to sing the line ‘Behold upon my bended spear, a monster’s head lies bleeding’. Rather a contrast to my singing ‘Wop Bop A Loo Bop A Lop Bam Boo’ with the college rock group ‘Sigmund and the Pedagogues’.
Little did I anticipate how much my career would involve me in the production of operas and musicals, working as MD for operatic societies, music theatre groups, as well as youth and school groups. I’ve lost count of the hours spent as a rehearsal pianist before joining other musicians in the orchestra pit for the performances. If ‘Leonard’ was to make another entrance, I doubt he would believe it!
The other programmes relate to events after my own time at GGS, and will no doubt spark memories for members of our group. My sister Kathryn and Nicole both featured in a performance of Haydn’s ‘Creation’ at the Girls’ school, but I’m not sure of the year. In 1965 I attended this concert at the Boys’ school and was taken aback to see such a transformation in the amount of musical activity taking place, following the arrival of a new music teacher. Not a ‘Rhythm Group’ in sight!