The Guildhall was founded in 1918 at St Mark’s Church in Foleshill, and were known then as The St Mark’s Players. Early performances were concerts of well known songs and monologues, rather like home entertainment around the piano. Productions during the 1920s were the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, and by the 1930s these were interspersed with other operettas from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
After the Second World War the society continued as before during the end of the 1940s, moving into the 1950s with strong musical shows from Johann Strauss, Emmerich Kalman, Lionel Monckton and, bravely, a number of lesser known shows. Our first ‘modern’ musical was Lerner and Loewe’s
Brigadoon in 1959 and during the 1960s there was a real mixture of the old and the new, but always highlighting the strength of singing from the newly named Guildhall Amateur Operatic Society (GAOS), when links to St Mark’s Church changed.
By the 1970s there was a continuing mixture of the older Operettas with modern works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe, plus the introduction of Pantomime. The 1980s saw the last of the 1920’s operettas with
The New Moon in 1981 and
The Desert Song in 1985. Since then, only post war musicals have been presented, with some like
Oliver!, three times each!
The Guildhall has performed at a number of locations in Coventry in its illustrious history including the 2,000 seater Coventry Hippodrome, where the Millennium Plaza is now situated, occasionally at the Belgrade Theatre, as well as its natural home in the College Theatre at the Coventry Technical College in the Butts, where it staged productions up until the College closure early in 2009.
A single concert production entitled 90 Musical Years was presented during the closure period, but The Guildhall (no longer Guildhall Amateur Operatic Society – new era – new name) were proud to be the first society to present a show in the ‘new’ theatre, when our 2013
Oliver! took to the stage of the Albany Theatre, formerly the College Theatre.
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