Let the Centenary Celebrations begin.........

History of the Company

The Huddersfield Light Opera Company has been entertaining the people of the area since 1912.  At a social gathering at Mr Wilkinson’s Rooms in Huddersfield in the autumn of 1911 a committee was appointed to consider the question of forming a society.  Energy, enthusiasm and determination triumphed over all obstacles, and shortly before Christmas it was decided to form a new society to be called ‘The Huddersfield & District Amateur Light Operatic Society.  So it was that on Saturday April 6th 1912 we presented our first production ‘Les Cloches de Corneville’ at the Theatre Royal in Huddersfield.  We missed doing shows in 1917 and 1918 due to the First World War but continued to produce a show each year after that until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  Our show that year was ‘Glamorous Night’ by Ivor Novello. This was the first amateur production in Yorkshire and in fact only the second amateur production in the country. 

 The Society closed down in 1939 but after the war Stephen Lister & George R. Hey arranged a meeting in 1947 which was enthusiastically attended and resulted in ‘The Arcadians’ being put on stage at the Theatre Royal in 1948.  We were once again off on a new era.  In 1954 the society gave ‘Me and My Girl’ and the composer Noel Gay paid a special visit to one of the rehearsals.  Mr Gay was related to the town’s Mayor and originally came from Wakefield. Principals were Norman Moore, Norman Royston, Jessie Martindale and Doreen France.

In February 1961 we presented our last show at the Theatre Royal ‘The Merry Widow’, and following this show on Wednesday March 1st the Theatre Royals effects went under the auction hammer and closed the theatre.  In February 1962 saw the society doing ’Wedding in Paris’ its first production at the ABC Cinema.  We followed this with ‘Wild Violets’, ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘Rose Marie’ in 1966 where we had the sold out sign up for the first time since 1959 with ‘Pajama Game’. From 1973 the society moved to several venues before settling  down again at Huddersfield Town Hall where we stayed until the opening of the Lawrence Batley Theatre in 1994.

In 1975 Joan Strickland, Mary Brearley, Margaret Warmington and Norman Royston had the idea to start a Junior Section. The group did exceedingly well with performances of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Bugsy Malone’.  Their last production was in 1990 ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’.  This group was a starting point for many of our young people who are now the society’s principals.  Many of our members have also worked professionally on Cruise Ships.  Several of our newer junior members are currently studying at Drama Schools up and down the country and one member has already appeared professionally at Bradford Alhambra.

In 1976 ‘Panto came to Town’.  All societies were approached by our Council’s Leisure Services to see if anyone would be interested in taking up the challenge of putting on a pantomime for the town.  We accepted the challenge and ‘Cinderella’ was the start of continuous annual pantomimes in the town. This year being no different and in January 2012 our Centenary Year Production was  ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  We pride ourselves on putting on traditional family pantomimes with all the laughter and slapstick scenes,  fabulous scenery, costumes, excellent principals, chorus and  dancers from the Strickland Cook Theatre School all never failing to delight audiences.

During the last 7 years we have been joined for one performance only by several members of  the Huddersfield Giants Rugby League Club on stage.  We are able to offer the Club the Tuesday evening performance for their supporters to come along and join in the fun and watch their favourite players performing on stage alongside our Company members.  It is always a wonderful fun evening enjoyed by everyone both on and off stage. 

In 1994 Huddersfield saw the opening of the new Lawrence Batley Theatre in Queens Square.  Our first production was ‘Aladdin’ in January followed by ‘Mame’ in April.  In 2000 we had a lavish production of ‘The King & I’, followed in 2001 by ‘Half a Sixpence’.  2002 saw a production of ‘Oliver’  which used the original professional touring scenery and introduced lots of new members to the company.   

The new facilities at the LBT have allowed us to produce large scale musicals which attract a diverse range of new and younger members to the company.  We enjoyed great success with ‘Oliver’, ‘Copacabana’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, ‘Crazy for You’, ‘Summer Holiday’, ’Mack & Mabel’ and ‘Carousel’.

In 2008, HLOC relished the challenge of staging a spectacular production of ‘La Cages aux Folles’, using the original West End costumes, which received fantastic revues and comments. Our 2011 production like many other societies up and down the country was Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. This was a very lavish and demanding production with a 40 strong cast, splendid scenery and spectacular costumes.

The history of the Company has been archived from 1912 to the present day.  Within the archives there are many photographs, programmes and reviews from many local papers including one from our very first production which makes very interesting reading.

In our years since 1912 we have had twelve Presidents, Tim Collins being the present incumbent. We are very proud of four members who have received their 60 Years Diamond Award – Barbara Stanley, Past President Michael Dyson, Mary Brearley and Joyce Edmondson, and are still active within the Company.

Our main show for our Centenary Year is ‘Me and My Girl’ which we hope will please audiences just as it did in 1954.  We look forward to a very happy week and hopefully more full houses. To celebrate its Centenary HLOC are organising many additional events which include a Junior production of ‘Wizard of Oz’, a Celebratory Concert, a Public Exhibition at the LBT and a Centenary ‘Masked Ball’.

We are most fortunate to have talented people continuing to join our Company and we hope that in the years that have followed that very first show ‘Les Cloches de Corneville’ we have kept up the standards and traditions set so many years earlier by our predecessors.