Marsden Parish Church Operatic and Dramatic Society

The Beginning.

On Thursday 18th February 1926 the Inaugural Meeting of the Society was held in the Parochial Hall, Marsden. At that time the Society was called Marsden Parish Church Operatic Society.

The first production of the Operatic Society was the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado" or The Town of Titipu and took place in the Parochial Hall. Opening night which was at 7pm Saturday 25th September 1926 was preceded by a children’s matinee that afternoon. Performances continued on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, September 28th, 29th, 30th September with the final performance being on Saturday 2nd October 1926. Admission was by programme. Reserved and numbered seats cost 2/- and unreserved seats 1/6. Proceeds from the performances were in aid of the Marsden Parochial Hall building fund.

The opera was produced under the personal direction of Captain F. Spencer.

Honorary Musical Director Mr. Thomas Lunn
Honorary Stage Manager Mr. N. Titcombe
Honorary Treasurer Mr. Frank Russell
Honorary Secretary Messrs. Chris Addy and H. Wild

The story of the first production is told in “Extracts from a Schoolgirl’s Diary 1926” and reproduced here.

Feb 18th Thursday Went to a meeting about opera. Formed a Society and elected a committee. Thomas Lunn to be Musical Director, Chris Addy as Secretary and Alice Price as Treasurer (note, this was to change by the first performance, when the Treasurer is listed as Mr. Frank Russell.)
March 8th Monday Went to practice for Mikado which was to be our first production.
May 17th Monday Went to Mikado practice when Mr. Spencer the producer came up.
May 31st Monday Mikado practice. We went practically the whole way through it. Mr. Phillips was very good.
June 28th Monday Went to practice for Mikado. Capt. Spencer came to show us the acting.
July 23rd Friday Rehearsal. Capt. Spencer was nearly an hour late.
August 2nd Monday Went to Mikado practice. We had the orchestra.
August 15th Monday Mikado practice. Capt. Spencer did not turn up so we did not do much.
August 31st Tuesday Went to rehearsal for Mikado.
Sept. 3rd Friday Practice for Mikado.
Sept. 11th Saturday Some went to Bradford to see the Mikado.
Sept. 14th Tuesday Went to Mikado practice.
Sept.15th Wednesday Went to Parochial Hall when Noel Titcombe showed us how to make up.
Sept. 20th Monday Went to Mikado practice when we had the scenery which was the cause of one or two downfalls.
September 22nd Wednesday Elsie fetched my costume for the Mikado. It is mainly orange and fits nicely.
Sept. 23rd Thursday Mikado practice. Everything is nearly ready. It's getting quite exciting.
Sept. 24th Friday Mikado practice. We nearly had a row about matinee tomorrow.
Sept.25th Saturday Gave matinee for children. It was crowded but enjoyed. Stayed for tea in Parochial Hall and had great fun after. 1st performance at 7pm was greatly admired and a great success. Mrs. Spencer sent us a letter wishing us success and we replied by telegram.
Sept. 28th Tuesday 2nd performance, went splendidly. Mr. Phillips had a cauliflower handed up during The Flowers That bloom in The Spring.
Sept. 29th Wednesday Mrs. Spencer came to see The Mikado which went better than ever.
Sept. 30th Thursday Another successful performance. Marjorie and Mary came and enjoyed it greatly.
Oct. 2nd Saturday Gave last of very successful performances of Mikado. Hall crowded. Heaps of presents. Mr.Phillips had a cauliflower made into a bouquet sent up.
October 4th Monday Went to take costumes back. Decided to have a pie supper to finish.
Oct.11th Monday Went to collect photographs of principles in Mikado.
Oct. 12th Tuesday Went to pie supper "Finishing Up Do" for Mikado. Had a topping time. Played games and danced.
Oct. 25th Monday Went to operatic meeting when new committee were elected for a year.
Oct. 30th Saturday There was a Social in aid of the operatic society.

Development of the Society and the first Sixty Years 1926 to 1939

The Society went from strength to strength performing annually up to and including 1939 when with the performance of "No No Nanette" it temporarily ceased shows due to the outbreak of the Second World War. The 1939 show was held in the Mechanics' Institution as the Parochial Hall was taken over as a war time First aid Post. In 1932 another string had been added to its bow when in 1932 , seven years before the outbreak of war, it decided to try straight acting and formed a dramatic branch. The Marsden Parish Church Amateur Operatic Society, was renamed the Marsden Parish Church Amateur operatic and Dramatic Society to reflect its expanded role.

A selection of programme covers, 1928 - 1952

(Click to enlarge)

A Country Girl
The Quaker Girl
Rose Marie
Rio Rita
Goodnight Vienna
No No Nanette
Our Miss Gibbs

The 1932 production was "The Sport of Kings' and dramas, comedies thrillers and farces continued to be performed until the outbreak of war. The 1939 production was appropriately named "A Spot of Bother."

Post World War 2

Following the cessation of hostilities, the musical section recommenced in 1947 with the show "Betty." However, it was not until 1958 that the Drama section started again with the play, "When We Are Married."

1974 At war with the vicar. Vicar versus the Society.

In 1974 the AODS performed "Viva Mexico" and the drama " Murder in the Vicarage" Although these were each a popular success, the Society's relationship with the vicar was to turn sour. The vicar, the Reverend James Holroyd, was extremely unhappy at what he saw was a lack of commitment and flagrant contempt for the church by members of the society. "People have a right to ignore the sacraments, but not under the umbrella of Our Lord's Holy Church"

In the November issue of St. Bartholomew's Church magazine he wrote that he had tried by many kindnesses ...to cooperate with the society...but alas they refused to acknowledge that any society which comes under the church's umbrella has to put loyalty to worship and prayer first. The time had come to dissolve the society and that there would be no more shows. Rev. Holroyd is quoted in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner of Monday 28th October as saying "The time has come to... to make it plain that the altar is the place that counts and not the stage.....I have a good body of opinion behind me, no amount of bullying, cajoling, letters anonymous or otherwise, will alter the fact that after ... this show (Viva Mexico) on Sunday, there will be no organisation as Marsden Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (AODS.)"

In the November he stated that he had contributed generously to the funds of the AODS, attended nearly every money-raising event, lent his valuable furniture as scenery, made a cake, tried to give generous praise for the effort and high standards of production and that he wished them well outside the framework of the church.

In response Mr. Peter Wood, the society's chairman, stated that they would carry on no matter what might happen, "If we cannot carry on within the church we shall drop the words "Parish Church" from our title". In a statement the AODS committee said that they did not want to drag the good name of Marsden Church or the reputation of the society through a long damaging newspaper correspondence. In a statement they criticised the vicar for breaking the news from the pulpit without first facing members and " ...whilst the Vicar is entitled to his views he would best promote those views by reasoned argument than dictatorship...from the pulpit."

However, a month after the Vicar the Reverend James Holdroyd decided to close the Society they did settled their differences. Mr. Peter Wood, chairman of the Society said "We have found a mutually satisfactory solution to our problems and have resolved our differences completely. The Vicar and ourselves are quite happy with the agreement that has been reached". Mr. Holroyd endorsed Mr. Wood's remarks, but emphasised that it was not a case of him having "climbed down" over attendance at church by some members.

Further Controversy November 1974.

Conflict between the Vicar and the Royal British Legion.

The annual Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance at the War Memorial in Marsden park was conducted by Mr. J.M. Holdroyd, Marsden Branch Secretary, in the absence of a clergyman. The Reverend Malcolm Smith, minister of the United Church, was unable to conduct the service because of another engagement. The vicar, the Reverend Holdroyd was approached a few days before the memorial service and wreath laying, but he refused to conduct the outdoor service.

Reverend Holdroyd explained to the Colne Valley newspaper "I didn't take the service at the war memorial because I think that at this time of year the weather is unsuitable for an outdoor service and I considered a half hour service in church was sufficient. I don't think I have slighted the Legion or been disrespectful to those who died in the wars. I certainly didn't intend that. I think the best place to remember the dead is at the altar of God and we did that at the service at the United Church"

The Marsden British Legion Branch Secretary said that in fact the vicar was coming to a meeting at the legion in a couple of weeks to hear about their work. "I think we shall have something to say about his refusal to take the service."

1976 Golden Anniversary.

By the time of the Marsden Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society's Golden Anniversary in 1976, the Operatic section had performed 43 musical productions. The Drama section had performed 23 productions. Golden Jubilee Celebrations

To mark fifty years of the society are number of events were planned for the jubilee year including a golden jubilee show in the January (which quite appropriately commenced with the overture to "The Mikado") and the Society entertaining other AOD Societies belonging to the National Operatic and Dramatic Association at the Spa Theatre in Bridlington. The jubilee year concluded in December with a production of "Spring and Port Wine"

Diamond Jubilee 1986.

In 1986 Marsden Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society celebrated their 6oth Anniversary. It marked its diamond jubilee on May 1st - 3rd with an appropriately named comedy - drama called Celebration by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. The year had begun with their pantomime Cinderella and in the October they performed "Fiddler on the Roof" with Peter Armitage in the lead role.

A special Diamond Jubilee Dinner and Dance was held at Greenhead Masonic Hall, Huddersfield. Musical entertainment for the evening was by the group Black Cherry. The guest speaker was Brian Baines a presenter on BBC Television's Look North and who had been a professional actor before he became a presenter and who with his wife Marilyn still did a lot of amateur dramatic work. Mr. Baines was welcomed by the society Chairman Mrs. Elsie Lingard and was introduced by long serving member Mr. Peter Armitage. The vote of thanks was proposed by Mr. Donald Lodge and seconded by Mrs. Jean Taylor.

Long service to the society was marked when Life members Madge Armitage and Bill Sharpe presented long service medals to Noreen Carr, Ivy Carter, Christina Ditchfield, David Hall and Jennifer Hall, and Lewis Muskett.

Church Service of Thanks Giving

On Sunday 7th September 1986 a Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanks Giving was held at 6:30 pm at Saint Bartholomew's Church, Marsden.

The service was led by the Reverend D.M. Rippingale and the following Marsden AODS were individually involved in the prayers, readings, and singing - Mrs. Audrey Armitage, Mr. Peter Armitage, Mrs. Jean Corden, Mr. David Hoyle, Mrs. Elsie Lingard, Mr. Donald Lodge, Mrs. Barbara Muskett, Mr. Andrew Stead, and Mr. Michael Whitwam (pianist)