Yeomen of the Guard – Information Pack - Grosvenor Light Opera Company

Yeomen of the Guard – Information Pack

GLOC are excited to begin work on their next production – The Yeomen of the Guard. Our welcome meeting is on Wednesday 31st January at 6:45pm in St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA (note – this is not St Gabriel’s church itself, but the Halls on Churchill Gardens Rd).

We’d love for you to join us, whether you’ve been in a GLOC show before or have never even heard of The Yeomen of the Guard! Everyone is welcome, and we will give a full introduction to the company, the show, and our production team at the welcome meeting.

If you can’t make the welcome meeting, or you missed it, then don’t worry – you are welcome to join us at a regular Wednesday evening rehearsal for the first few weeks into the show. Please email us at [email protected] if you’d like to come along!

Below are all the details you need to know about the show, important dates and the company. We do not audition to be in the chorus but auditions for principal parts will be held on the 7th and 10th February. See below for details on how to book (or go straight to the form here: https://forms.gle/5ecm1dyPmHCuqTEq5

Opportunities to get involved: audition for a principal role, join the chorus (no audition required), and/or volunteer to help backstage or on the production team (props, costume, lighting, stage managing etc).

Important dates

Open meetingWednesday 31 January 2024St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA
Auditions for principal rolesWednesday 7 February 18:45 – 21:45 Saturday 10 February 2024 10:00 – 14:00+St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA.
Auditions by appointment
Fill in the Google Form here: https://forms.gle/5ecm1dyPmHCuqTEq5 
RehearsalsEvery Wednesday, 6.45 – 9.45pm, beginning 14 February 2024.St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA Not everyone will be called for every rehearsal 
Sunday rehearsals1-2 as we get closer to show week. Dates and location TBC
Show get inSunday 16 June 2024 from 10amDetails to be confirmed but everyone should be prepared to attend. Bridewell Theatre.
Tech rehearsal (compulsory)Monday 17 June 2024 (18:00)Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
Dress rehearsal(compulsory)Tuesday 18 June 2024  (18:00)From circa 6pm at Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
Performances (compulsory)Wednesday 19 June – Friday 21 June (evenings)Saturday 22 June (matinee)Saturday 22 June (evening)Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
Buxton Performance Monday 29th July 2024Evening performance on the main stage at The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Buxton.  See below for more details. Compulsory for principals. Optional for chorus.

Membership and costs

You are very welcome to join rehearsals for a couple of weeks to decide whether or not you would like to stay and participate in the show; however to be in the show you will need to become a member of GLOC.

This entails being able to attend all our performances, as well as the dress and tech rehearsals. (See dates above.)

Our shows are put on to a very high standard, but with this there is a cost which isn’t covered by ticket sales and is made up by donations and membership fees.

Membership fees for this show: £180. Half rates available for those who are unemployed or in full time education. If you think you would struggle to pay, please reach out to our treasurer James 

At least the first half of the fees (£90) must be paid by 30 March (or, for principals, before confirmation of casting). The full amount is due by 27 April to ensure that we have funds to put on the show.

Membership fees can be paid by bank transfer:

Account name: Grosvenor Light Opera Company
Account number: 80463221
Sort code: 20-52-74

Vocal Scores

We wil be using the standard Chappell version of the score, which is available:

For free as a PDF from IMSLP: Link

As a physical copy from Amazon: Link

Who’s who and contacts

The production team and the GLOC committee include the following

Show directorRachel Middle
Musical directorChristopher Jacklin
ChairMark Pim
ProductionGemma Warren
TreasurerJames Scowen
SecretaryJacqueline Cable & Emma Rettie
Contact them on [email protected] for queries about rehearsal schedules and auditions
PublicityFran Lambert
Contact her on [email protected] (or via FB, Twitter or Instagram) for any public-facing enquiries (or just to share your GLOC photos!)
Angels SecretaryLissy Fothergill
Ordinary MembersPhil Errington & Jonathan Broad
Social events and FundraisingJacqueline Cable, Fran Lambert, Emma Rettie

About Rachel Middle and The Yeomen of the Guard

An introduction from our director Rachel Middle.

For those who don’t know me – hi! My name is Rachel Middle. I have been a professional Director and Actor for almost 15 years now, and much of my work has involved the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan; mostly with my own company ‘Forbear! Theatre’ but also with the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera company in 2021. From the age of sixteen I have been absolutely enchanted by G&S; there something about the ‘matter-of-fact’ humour set in absurd, topsy-turvy locations and situations that hits all the right spots for me, and Sullivan’s setting of Gilbert’s lyrics only adds to the drama and the comedy. It has been my mission for quite some time now to show the world just how relevant these stories are; not so much for the specific situations the characters are in but for showing us how people can be flawed, but still good at heart; how the ostensibly strongest of us can prove themselves to be the most vulnerable of us all; and how their failure to communicate honestly and openly can end in heartbreak.  These operas are not as frivolous as they seem; while using satire to poke fun at the upper classes they give us a real insight into why people do the things they do, while providing the audience with a much-needed injection of sheer joy.

At first glance, “The Yeomen of the Guard” is not quite like the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas; it was created largely to give Sullivan the space he needed to write a work he considered truly emotional and dramatic, more along the lines of ‘Grand Opera’ than the comic operas he was used to writing with Gilbert, and the piece is full of deep, emotional moments. ‘Yeomen’ is set in the Tower of London in the 1520s, and features Colonel Fairfax, a man who is about to be wrongfully executed for Sorcery. Fairfax accepts his fate but wishes to marry before he dies so his money doesn’t go to one of his enemies. The woman randomly chosen is Elsie, a strolling musician who is herself in a complicated situation with her performing colleague, Jack Point, who clearly loves her but has difficulty communicating this to her. Fairfax’s friends, meanwhile, have plotted his escape, and thus Fairfax finds himself alive and newly married to a woman he doesn’t know, and Elsie and Jack are forced to deal with the aftermath.

Though the story seems pretty miserable on first glance, one of Gilbert’s great strengths was finding the humour in tragedy, and “Yeomen” is no exception; it is full of wittiness, silliness, and likeable, but complex characters, and is a lot less tragic than many believe! In our production we will highlight not only Gilbert’s wonderful words and Sullivan’s glorious music, (arguably the best in the canon,) but we will have a lot of fun creating unique characters; Principals and chorus-members alike; and experience being part of one of the most beautifully romantic pieces in the canon.

The International G&S Festival in Buxton

GLOC is delighted to be returning to the Festival in Buxton in the summer, and in particular to be returning to the main stage, at the Buxton Opera House, which is a reflection of the reputation for high quality shows we have built up at the festival.  This additional performance is compulsory for principal roles.  It is optional for the chorus, although we hope you enjoy your experience of performing with GLOC enough to want to do the show again.  

Please note there is a small additional show fee for those going to Buxton to cover the costs of taking the show to the Festival.  The Committee endeavours to keep this as low as possible; for reference, in previous years the additional fee was up to around £50 and (when the main show did well and expenses for the festival were small) has even been £0.  Please also note that GLOC does not organise accommodation or travel and you are advised to book early.  You will need to be in Buxton at the latest the evening of Sunday 28th August. We are likely to be asked to perform the after-show evening cabaret at the festival club.

Auditions

We do not audition for chorus members. All are welcome — just come along!

Auditions for principal parts will take place on:

  • Wednesday 7 February (6:50pm – 10pm at St Gabriel’s Halls Pimlico)
  • Saturday 10 February (10am – 2pm at St Gabriel’s Halls Pimlico)

Auditions will last around ten minutes and consist of an English-language song of the candidate’s own choice and an extract of spoken libretto, followed by a brief chat. Descriptions of each character, together with the relevant extract of dialogue for audition and suggested audition pieces, are detailed below. 

Sign up for a slot here: https://forms.gle/5ecm1dyPmHCuqTEq5

You are not required to have learnt the audition material by heart and are welcome to sing/read from the music/script. However, it is in your interests to ensure you are familiar enough with the material to be able to perform freely and respond to direction.

Although audition songs for each role have been suggested below, you will be best served by performing something you know well. That said, if you have a particular role in mind, think carefully about the vocal and dramatic qualities you wish to portray.

If you wish to be considered for more than one part please indicate this on the audition form; however you will only be able to do one audition slot.

There is a £12 audition fee; there will be a card reader at the auditions to collect this fee. If you do join the production, this audition fee is then deducted from your membership fee (so for those who continue in a chorus or principal role, there is no additional cost for auditioning).

Please arrive in advance of your audition time, as you will be asked to fill in an availability form prior to your audition. Availability will be taken into account in decisions to allocate roles. If your availability decreases during the rehearsal period, or your actual attendance is less than expected, we may decide to reallocate the role for the benefit of the other cast members and chorus.

Please note that, this year, confirmation and announcement of principal roles will be subject to payment of the first instalment of subs.

Characters and audition sides

Please note that the audition songs included below are for guidance only, picked primarily to show the range of the roles, or to tackle the ‘tricky’ bits. However, these are not compulsory and candidates should feel free to choose any appropriate piece with lyrics in English that shows them off to the best of their ability.

Please prepare the specified speeches for your character, however you may be asked to read only ONE of them, or a portion.  You are NOT expected to be off-book. The relevant extracts of dialogue are available from the full libretto here: https://gsarchive.net/yeomen/yg_lib.pdf

The vocal score is available from here

Elsie Maynard – Soprano (D4 – Bb6)

An enigmatic, strolling player who finds herself married to a man she has never seen.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing Elsie is some solemn, tragic character.  People who have gone through a huge shock as Elsie has during the events of Act I would be anxious, heart-broken (presuming she has some feelings for Jack Point, which I think she does.  Controversially, it’s possible to have feelings for two people at once!) and extremely vulnerable.  Elsie is a performer.  She is confident, extroverted and charming, usually wearing a smile.  She and Jack are in the same industry- she also has to put a brave face on things!

Audition song:  Act 1, No 10 – Recit and Aria: ‘Tis done! I am a bride! 

Dialogue: Scene with Fairfax following No. 17 (Strange Adventure)

Phoebe Meryll – Mezzo-soprano (or Soprano*) (G#3 – F5)

As the daughter of the leader of the Yeomen but an outspoken critic of the workings of the tower, Phoebe is possibly the most intelligent but least mature character in the canon.  Her imagination runs absolutely wild with thoughts of grand romance with the hero Fairfax.  However, though she dreams of a courageous soldier taking her into his arms all she has is her nerdy childhood friend Wilfred.  She is actually extremely fond of Wilfred, but is unable to allow herself to fall in love with him because it would dramatically lower her social standing.  Phoebe is only one of several ‘it girls’ in the Tower and she would never live it down if she married Wilfred.  Though Phoebe seems shallow and frivolous she is a deeply considerate, brave, clever person who does not hesitate at the chance to save Fairfax.

Audition song:  Act I, No. 1 – Song: When a maiden loves

Dialogue: Scene following no. 20 up until “but even brutes must marry I suppose”

*This role is written for a mezzo, but can be performed by a soprano if you transpose her two songs.

Kate – Soprano (F#4 – G5)

Kate is a relatively small part of this story but she nonetheless makes her mark in the scene preceding Strange Adventure and the song itself.  She is charming, empathetic, and LOVES gossip.  She is always with her aunt, Dame Carruthers, and will play a silent role in many scenes she has no dialogue or singing in, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have opinions!  Since she has relatively little spoken dialogue, I’ve included Elsie’s scene as an audition piece.

Audition song: Act 2, No. 5 – Quartet: Strange Adventure (either verse).

Dialogue: Elsie’s Scene with Fairfax following Strange Adventure

Dame Carruthers – Contralto (G3 – Eb5)

The ostensibly quite matronly but actually very repressed and romantic administrative backbone of the Tower of London.  She is in charge of everything, and everyone is quite scared of her, but she has a softer side.  Remember all those really crappy magazines we used to read 20 years ago? The ones full of true life stories like “I married a ferris wheel”? Dame Carruthers is properly in love with the Tower of London itself, and I want anyone singing her aria in an audition to have a true, earnest, romantic connection with the Tower.  It’s a good thing she’s never left alone on stage with it.  She also LOVES gossip, and revels in the idea that there is some conspiracy going on in the tower, and tends to pop up unnoticed.  I get the sense that she glides rather than walks, and possibly appears at random times in random places, making people jump.  Elegance.  POWER.  But also kind of silly around Meryll.  Like when a swan falls over.

Audition song: Act 1, No. 3 – Song: When our gallant Norman foes (either verse).

Dialogue: Scene Following no. 2

Colonel Fairfax – Tenor (Eb3 – Ab4) 

The handsome war hero who is wrongfully accused of sorcery, and who has bravely accepted his fate to be executed at the Tower.  He gets wrapped up in a complicated situation with Elsie who he attempts to ‘trick’ into being unfaithful to him.  I get it- Fairfax seems like a really bad guy.  However, in the interests of creating nuanced, three-dimensional characters, lets try to imagine that Fairfax, a military hero who’s heretofore been brave in the face of death, is not so good at talking to the ladies- it’s possible that in his attempts to impress Elsie he accidentally offends her, or perhaps he simply has a terrible sense of humour.  He’s also been through quite a trauma; I feel like at the end of the Act 1 finale he and Elsie have this shared moment of utter distress- she’s just realised she’s married to a criminal who’s still alive, and he’s in the midst of a crowd of knife-wielding maniacs who’ve just heard there’s a reward on his head, and any of them could recognise him at any moment! Yes, Fairfax isn’t afraid of dying exactly, but wouldn’t anyone be afraid of dying in that manner? Consider how that shared experience may have bonded them.  In short, he’s a war hero, but also awkward AF.

Audition song:  Act 1, No. 5 – Song: Is life a boon?

Dialogue: Scene following no. 4 AND Scene with Elsie following no. 17 

Jack Point – Comic Baritone (A3 – F4)

A strolling player who is an expert at finding comedy in tragedy, much like Gilbert himself! His abilities are put to the test, however, when he loses the love of his life through his own choices.  The danger with this role is that the actor plays ‘tragic’ from the beginning.  Even in the 2nd half, Jack never loses hope.  Consider that many people you see every day will be going through terrible heartbreaks and other personal difficulties.  Think how they may try and mask this from those they are trying to impress.  Don’t show me defeated- show me hope, anxiety, restlessness; perhaps a little mania.  Think how desperately he’ll be trying to shut out the voices in his head and convince himself and others that he’s FINE.  HE’S FINE, HONESTLY!!!!

Audition songs:  Act2, No. 2 – Song: Oh a private buffoon – first and last verses only

and Act 2 No. 10  – Finale: “Oh thoughtless crew! / It is sung to the moon”

Dialogue: Scene following no. 13 up until “‘til I ache for it.”

Sergeant Meryll- Bass-baritone (G2 – Eb4) 

Meryll is a genuine, certified war hero.  He’s also the bestest, sweetest father imaginable.  He loves his children more than anything, fond even of Phoebe’s ability to ‘wheedle’ men.  Fairfax is like a (presumably much younger) brother to him; remember bonds formed in the army will hit differently; they’ve been through multiple shared traumas together.  There is real love and affection between them, and the thought of Fairfax dying is utterly devastating to him.  Meryll’s character is almost subordinate to his ability to deliver exposition.  This role requires an actor who can deliver dialogue EXTREMELY well.  He has a lot of it, and it is dense.  I am looking for somebody very confident with delivering text clearly for this role.  Please note that ‘A Laughing Boy’ is almost certainly cut from this production.

Audition song: Act 1, No. 2 – Double Chorus, bars 61-103 (Figure C): 2nd Yeoman solo “This, the autumn of our lives” 

Dialogue: Scene following 3a until “And bless thee for this sacrifice”

Wilfred – Baritone (G2 – E4)

Wilfred holds the esteemed post of ‘assistant torturer’ at the Tower of London, but he is possibly the most insipid and most infuriating person you’ll ever meet.  Eloquent and openly vulnerable, he’s not at all shy about his love for Phoebe, but sadly he is lacking in most skills that would aid him in winning her love.  Think sad puppy; a hopeless romantic, but immature and petulant when he doesn’t get his way.  He is VERY jealous of Fairfax and is very open about wanting him out of the way.   Sadly, the only thing he is good at is torturing people, but he’s really, really proud of how good he is at it- think of a cat that’s brought a dead mouse onto your recently-cleaned kitchen floor- look, mum, dinner!!!! Ultimately, though, he and Phoebe probably will be very happy together once they’ve grown up a bit. Please note that we will most likely be including no. 1a; “When Jealous torments rack my soul”

Audition song:  Act !, No. 12 – Finale, bars 201-259 (8 bars after J): “To thy fond care” 

Dialogue: Scene following no. 20 from “In tears, eh?” up until “My beloved!”

Sir Richard Cholmondeley (Lieutenant) – Baritone (A3 – E4)

The commander of the whole Tower and a very respected authority figure.  He’s actually a real guy- you can look him up! As soon as he appears the crowd goes silent and complies- it is not your job as an actor to command respect- the chorus and the other principals will do that for you, but being able to project power while being still is essential here.  What we are looking for here is someone who is very grounded and comfortable with projection, and who can convey a relatively austere front while actually having a good sense of humour.  He is absurdly dry; a fun but challenging role to play.  

Audition song:  Act 1, No. 9 – Trio: How say you, maiden – first verse 

Dialogue: Scene following no. 9 (after Jack’s speech)

Leonard Meryll – Tenor – (Gb3 – Ab4) 

Meryll’s son and Phoebe’s brother- exceptionally brave and heroic and willing to put his own life on the line to save Fairfax.  Ideally this performer will become a part of the chorus while they are not ‘Leonard’ so this would be a really fun track to do!

Audition song and Dialogue:  Same as Colonel Fairfax

First Yeoman – Tenor, Second Yeoman – baritone, First Citizen, Second Citizen

For these roles it is best to select from the material for a character above.  Please note that the second Yeoman’s solo in ‘Tower Warders’ is often given to Meryll, however we are not ruling out that the solo may be given to Second Yeoman after all.  The First and Second citizens will be selected once Elsie has been cast as, since the main purpose of their roles is to assault or attempt to assault Elsie, I want the person playing her to have an input.

About Grosvenor Light Opera Company

GLOC is a leading London G&S Society, and one of the only amateur operatic societies to both rehearse and perform in Central London. As a result, we attract a membership largely of young professionals who work in the city, together with students attending the city’s universities 

We perform at least one fully-staged G&S production, accompanied by a professional orchestra, every year and supplement this with other staged and semi-staged concert performances. We are a very sociable society, and organise events and parties for our members, and invariably find time for a catch-up with each other in the pub after rehearsals. We pride ourselves on being friendly and welcoming to new members.
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