2013 saw the 75th anniversary of the Rhyl and District Amateur Operatic Society, now called the “Rhyl and District Musical Theatre Company”. It all began in 1938 when a group of people met in Penmaen Hall* in Wellington Road, at a meeting presided over by Mr Billy Rees.
However, it seems that its beginnings go much further back than 1938. Below is a photograph showing a production of H.M.S.Pinafore by the Society in 1914. There are also references to the Society in the local paper of 1910. Has anyone any information about the Society between 1910 and 1938? Perhaps during the Great War the Society was suspended and was then resurrected in 1938? If anyone has any information about those lost years Rhyl History Club and the Rhyl & District Musical Theatre Company would be pleased to hear from you.
It seems that we have Mr. J.D. Asher to thank for the Society, which began in 1910 according to the local press. This is from the Rhyl Record and Advertiser, February 12th, 1910:
“On Monday and Tuesday, the Rhyl Operatic Society, a new combination of great promise and strength brought together by Mr J.D. Asher, gave an excellent entertainment at the Town Hall, the proceeds to be devoted towards establishing a system of electric fire alarms in the houses of members of the Fire Brigade, instead of the present antiquated system of ringing the Town Hall bell.”
The Rhyl Journal of the same date says: “The piece was effectively staged under the superintendence of Mr J.D. Asher, to whose enthusiastic exertions the Society owes its existence.”
Mr John Darlington Asher (1870-1954) was a real stalwart of St. John’s Church. The Choir Master and Organist there, he set a very high musical standard. Mr Asher served in the Great War in the Denbighshire Yeomanry as Commanding Officer’s Trumpeter before being promoted to the rank of Trumpet Major.
Many thanks to Mr Kevin Griffiths, Chairman of the Rhyl and District Musical Theatre Company who has sent us the following information:
The first show that was put on after that meeting in 1938 was again H.M.S Pinafore, performed at Easter 1939, the MD was Stanley Roose. (Mr Roose was also part of the cast of H.M.S Pinafore in 1914.) This was followed by the Mikado in 1940. The Society then suspended its activities until the end of World War 2 when, in 1945, H.M.S. Pinafore was chosen again as the most suitable for victory celebrations.
In 1966 the Society bought the derelict St. Anne’s School on Vale Road for their headquarters and rehearsal rooms. As the Society was celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 1973, they learned of the impending closure of their beloved Pavilion Theatre.
The Society performed at the Gaiety Theatre for the next four years and then the Coliseum Theatre for a further fourteen years. In 1991 they were off again, this time to the New Pavilion Theatre, where they still receive a warm welcome and enjoy superb facilities. In 2008 the Society changed its name to “Rhyl and District Musical Theatre Company”. The Company’s aim is to bring the enjoyment of live Theatre to the community and to promote and cultivate the Arts.
* Penmaen Hall/House is believed to have been on the corner of Princes Street and Wellington Road, opposite the Church.