When the final curtain falls on the last night of this year’s production of The Mikado in Melrose, it could herald the end of an 80-year tradition.
Melrose Amateur Operatic Society, which has performed Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in the Borders since its formation in 1935, has issued a statement saying it is unlikely the society will be able to continue in future years.
To blame is dwindling audience numbers and, despite strenuous efforts, the lack of success in recruiting younger people to supplement the society’s existing membership.
“There is great sadness amongst members, who are conscious of the enormous debt of gratitude owed to the very many people who have supported [the society] over the years: performers, musicians, non-performing members, backstage and technical staff, audiences and patrons,” said the statement.
The society will perform The Mikado for the ninth – and possibly last – time as a fitting 80th anniversary celebration, from Monday, March 23, to Saturday, March 28, inclusive, at the Corn Exchange in Melrose.
Administrator Lucy Smith explained further: “We still attract good audiences, but given the age of those attending and the age of members, unless there is a sudden influx of about 20 new younger members, then the long-term future of the society has to be in doubt.
“Sadly, the last 10 years have not been very successful in terms of attracting new members. There won’t be a production in 2016, although the long-term future of the society won’t actually be decided until the annual general meeting in June.”
She added another problem could be that the works of Gilbert and Sullivan are no longer taught as much in schools.
“It is a combination of all these things. There are many successful professional productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, and many excellent amateur society productions. But here in the Borders the enthusiasm for Gilbert and Sullivan has obviously not continued to the same degree.”
The Melrose company last performed The Mikado in 2005, with the first time being in 1936 – the year after the company was founded.
The society has 30 singing members, 27 non-performing members and four life members, and is managed by a committee elected by its members.