Rhyl and District Amateur Operatic Society.

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.

operatic 1914

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.

operatic 1

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.

operatic 2

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.



Filed under Clubs/Societies, Community, Entertainment

11 responses to “Rhyl and District Amateur Operatic Society.

  1. Sandra Williams nee Roose

    Nice to read the Operatic society. Saw many of their performances during the 60s and always thought how professional they were. Stanley Roose the MD is a relative of mine and was involved in many choral things in Rhyl as well as being a teacher/headmaster.

  2. Mike Jones

    My Dad, Jim Jones was one of the first members of the Society after the war and I was in some of the shows as a child in the 1960’s

  3. Gillian Jones nee Betts

    My mother Myfanwy Betts was the pianist for the operatic society for many years. Easter was always taken over by rehearsals and performances and my family always remember the panic setting in when it was near the end of a show and my mother was frantically trying to finish the dolls she made for all the leading characters. All of us children have appeared in one guise or another in the shows, and I think that is where my youngest sister met her husband.

    • Mike Jones

      I remember your mother well and she was a great pianist,and I was in one show with your sister Sian!

      • Sian Davies (nee Betts)

        I think it was two or three shows actually, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific (remember singing In French?) and the King and I.

      • Mike Jones

        Yes indeed Sian ,happy memories..I returned to Rhyl to live in 2011, after 40 years living and working in London!

  4. krudyard

    I’m amazed to have discovered this as I was searching for information on my great-grandfather’s brother, John Darlington Asher. Thanks for that treasure of information!

  5. my grandad frank toft and aunt and uncle fred steven jones and bette jones and cousin peter stephen jones were in the operatic 50s/60s been trying to find photos of them any hope mary jones

    • Mike Jones

      I remember Frank Toft..I think he was in the front row every night of all the productions in the 1960s! I remember Fred and Bette As they were friends of my parents Jim and Betty Jones and I was friends with their son 50 years ago when I was a boy before they moved to (Whitchurch?)..I will search my old programmes for photos

      • I think it was Frank Selby that used to be in the audience at every show. Frank Toft was a member of the chorus – he seemed very old as I recall but then to a child (as I was then) everyone seemed old!

      • mike jones

        You are right Sian!! Your memory is sharper than mine….I don’t think I remember Frank Toft then… a lot of those we knew in those days are no longer with us but still in our minds!

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