The Scarborough Gilbert And Sullivan Society: About Us

In The Beginning 
Hail Nan Wells 
Stan Farrow 


Verne Hill By Verne Hill

In 1966, Padrť Harding, the Rector of St. Peterís Church on Brimley Road, approached Verne and Mary Hill and asked if they could help start a music group in St. Peterís to put on a musical evening to raise money to help furnish the newly-completed church. In addition, the groupís purpose would be for fellowship for people with a love of music. The Hills approached their friends Nan and Bill Bates (and also Nanís brother John Ricciardelli). Nan (now Nan Wells) was very keen. She was also a member of St. Peterís choir so it was decided that the choir would be a nucleus along with church members and others including Verne and Mary. A committee was set up and the St. Peterís Choral Society was formed.

Nan agreed to direct An Evening with Gilbert and Sullivan, assisted by her brother John. He was an accompanist and since has helped our society many times. Verne Hill was the producer of this first production as well as being a chorus member!

The first half of the evening consisted of solos and chorus work. After the intermission Trial By Jury was presented which runs about 40 minutes, all music no dialogue. The show ran for two nights, May 12 and 13, 1966, and judged a success. They continued to produce one show each for ten years in St. Peterís church hall, using the upper hall for the practices and the performances and the lower hall for dressing rooms and make-up.

The group, as well as performing, managed with help from many parishioners to convert the upper hall of what had been the Ďoldí church (built in 1953) by constructing a platform over what had been the sanctuary and chancel to create the stage. In later years, they improved wiring and installed curtains. Thus began at least 36 years of G&S performances! Stan Farrowís Reminiscences pick up from 1972.

It is interesting that in 1968, there were five performances in St. Peterís Hall to a total of 785 people (86.6% capacity). Ticket prices were $1.50 for adults and $1 for students. Total revenue from ticket sales was $1,027.25 resulting in a net profit of $488 of which a donation was made to the church of $450.

It became evident that more space was required than St. Peterís could provide. As a result, the St. Peterís Choral Society moved to David and Mary Thomson Collegiate in 1976, then Laurier Collegiate in the Guildwood in 1983, and back to Thomson in 1990 for the societyís 25th anniversary!

In 1993 the St. Peterís Society became The Scarborough Gilbert & Sullivan Society after severing its formal ties to the church. The society could not attract more customers and donations as a Ďchurchí organization, so the step was taken with the support of Padrť Harding, its founding minister, and the church.

Webmaster's note: Of that original group of about 35 people, the only original member still with the society is Verne Hill.


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