Music lovers who enjoy singing but are too shy to take to the stage will feel right at home Sunday when the Unity Performing Arts Center hosts its premiere Savoyard Sing, featuring the music of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Judy Rock, a member of the Penobscot Bay Singers, said the Savoyard Sing harkens back to the time when Lyricist William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911) and Musician Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) produced operas that debuted in the Savoy Theater in London in the late 19th century. Their musical partnership produced 14 operettas in a 25-year span and countless other music projects that are still popular with contemporary audiences.

While the operas of their day was often based on story lines laced with heavy drama and tragedy, Gilbert and Sullivan’s works were classified as operettas that were light, humorous and took potshots at political figures and those considered to be the upper crust of society.

“Gilbert and Sullivan’s plots are often ridiculous and satirized popular novels of their day,” said Rock. “There were lots of inside jokes that still translate with today’s audiences.”

Sunday’s singalong is a stripped-back affair. There are no costumes or casts members — simply a music director, stage chorus and piano. The 10-member chorus has singers from Belfast, South Thomston, Bar Harbor, Waterville, Sydney, Winslow and Oakland. The event is a fundraiser for the Penobscot Bay Singers of Belfast.

“I knew there were Gilbert and Sullivan fans in Pittsfield, Skowhegan, the mountains region, Ellsworth and Belfast,” said Rock. “We needed a place (to meet) in the middle and the Unity College Center for Performing Arts fit the bill. It’s a nice theater with good acoustics and a good piano, which is essential.”

Beth Schiller of Waterville provides piano accompaniment.

“Beth’s a wizard on piano,” said Rock. “She just romps through (the music), which is not easy stuff to play.”

Rock was referring to Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter songs, complex silly songs, loaded with tongue-twisting words that are sung rapidly.

For this first Savoyard sing, Rock has selected music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s three more popular works: “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Mikado” and “Pirates of Penzance.” Fans may opt to bring along their own sheet music or copies will be available for a $3 fee that is refundable for those who return them at the end of the evening.

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: dsayer@pressherald.com