The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston is a non-profit, all-volunteer company which, since 1952, has been dedicated to preserving and sharing the delightful legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan's wonderful operas. As an internationally award-winning stalwart of the arts community, our Society is proudest of showcasing young talent for Houston audiences, as well as awarding over 100 scholarships to vocal performance and theatre tech students over the years.
Early in 1952, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Houston was founded by a handful of G&S aficionados, whose "house" was an unair-conditioned gymnasium. In August of that same year, the Society presented THE GONDOLIERS as its first public offering in the Cullen Auditorium on the University of Houston campus. The cast, along with their families and friends, constructed the sets and costumes for the show.
In 1982, after the demise of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, the Society secured the talents of Mr. Alistair Donkin, one of its lead performers. Mr. Donkin, an immediate hit, has spent his summers in Houston ever since, serving as both stage director and featured performer.
When the Wortham Theater Center opened in 1987, the Society again participated in the opening ceremonies and moved into the more intimate confines of the Cullen Theater. The performance schedule was expanded from three performances to six, with the Society enjoying critical acclaim and sold-out houses. In 1990, the Society was honored to entertain visiting British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, offering choral selections from various operas. The afternoon's highlight, however, was Mr. Donkin's rendition of Major-General Stanley's patter song, with lyrics re-written especially for the Prime Minister.
In 1995, 1998, and 2004, the Society took part in the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England, performing HMS PINAFORE, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, and THE MIKADO, respectively. On all occasions, the society received numerous awards for individual performances, directing and conducting. The 1998 appearance resulted in the festival's first standing room only performance. But it was the 2004 production of THE MIKADO that brought the Society its greatest honor: 1st Place International Champions of the Festival.
In 2001, the Society celebrated its fiftieth anniversary by staging audience favorite THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE to sell out crowds and critical acclaim. Our fifty-first year marked yet another milestone. A forty-year association with the Society, Dr. Robert Linder retired as music director, passing his baton to Dr. Clifton Evans, orchestra conductor at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts and the director of the Houston Civic Symphony. Both Robert and Clif came home with Best Musical Director awards each time they were in the pit at Buxton. Cliff accepted a professorship at the University of Texas at Arlington this year and has been replaced by Brian Runnels, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities School of Music at Houston Baptist University. We look forward to Brian's continuing the outstanding leadership that we've been fortunate to have throughout our history.
As a stalwart of Houston's arts community, the Society not only maintains high artistic standards, but also strives to increase exposure of all the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas to the public in various ways. One of those is enabling young people from less fortunate backgrounds to enjoy the magic of musical theatre. Among these organizations are Boys and Girls Country, DePelchin Children's Center, and through Tickids the Incentive Boys Ranch and YMCA Teen Leaders. This goal has been greatly assisted thanks to the generosity of the Lillian Kaiser Lewis and Ray C Fish foundations.
The Society has continued its high standards for fifty-seven years thanks to the support of many organizations including The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Houston Endowment, Inc., Cynthia and George Mitchell and the Humphreys Foundation.