South Norfolk Amateur Operatic Society

Brief History

Wymondham Abbey
Wymondham Abbey

In June 1983, following an advertising campaign in the local press, a group of people met in the Abbey Schoolroom at Wymondham, Norfolk with the intention of starting Wymondham Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Twenty four people attended that first meeting, which had been called by Barry and Bernadette Paine, who had sung in operatic societies before moving into the area from Ealing in west London. The fledgeling society was supported by Denis Wright, organist and choirmaster at Wymondham Abbey, who played the piano, and who supported the society for some time.

On November 5th 1983, the society performed its inaugural engagement  by singing at a Victorian Evening at the Abbey Hall. Items sung included "Hail Poetry" from The Pirates of Penzance, "The World is but a Broken Toy" from Princess Ida and "Bless this House"!!

At the first AGM on June 6th 1984, the society was set up on a slightly more formal basis with a committee to manage its affairs and carry out all those necessary tasks required for the successful functioning of an operatic society. It was at this time that the name of the society was changed to the South Norfolk Amateur Operatic Society.

In autumn 1984 and again in 1985, concerts were performed at Wymondham Central Hall, each involving a certain amount of lighting, scenery, make-up etc. Following these concerts, in which the society wa gradually building up its experience, and becoming known in the local community, the seemingly momentous decision was made that in 1986 the company would perform a full production of "The Mikado". Looking back at that first perfomance, it can now be seen in a more balanced perspective, but at the time the feeling was one of euphoria - we had pulled off our first show, and with considerable success, both artistic and financial! The Mikado was produced by Martin Spriggs, a well known local figure and member of Wymondham Players. The set was by David Paternoster, who has maintained a strong link with the society. The orchestra was drawn partly from members of the Wymondham Community Orchestra, as it was then known, and the leader was John Winsworth, an experienced exponent of G&S as well as many other types of show.Costumes were by Jenny Lysons and lighting by Ron Lansdell.

One of the society's policies has been to forge links with other groups within the local community.To this end we have co-operated with Wymondham Lions, Wymondham Abbey Music Society and Wymondham Players over the last few years. Our 1989 Salad Days production was a joint effort with Wymondham Lions and Wymondham Players, the proceeds going towards the Wymondham Market Cross Appeal. In 1986 we took part in a Son et Lumiere drama at Wymondham Abbey, organised by Wymondham Lions, which was exciting to be in and a great success. We provided all the sung music under the direction of Denis Wright.

Barry Paine 1991

The society perfomed many shows, mainly G&S but not exclusively, from the mid 1980s to the early 2000s when some internal disagreements caused a split to take place. Some members formed the Livewire Opera Company and the remaining members eventually renamed their group Encore and peformed many concerts.