Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company opened up on the 26th of February to a packed house and I am fortunate enough to be a part of this amazing company of talented singers and musicians until end of March.

Receiving accolades in the Twin Cities theatrical musing paper Cheery Spoon – a local entertainment paper with mentions of the “live” orchestra, was simply too fun and a huge pick-me up personally.

“Iolanthe” by Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company at Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

Last year I was invited to play my oboe with this 30-year-old Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company through their marvelous production of H.M.S. Pinafore. The Company followed that up last year with the one-act Trial by Jury at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, where it was one of the top-selling shows in town. Luckily for myself and our fearless, well studied principal oboist Steve  — our colleague Donna gave us the summer off to help out the Company.

There’s something about watching and listening to a huge cast and orchestra that is such a musical thrill! Music Director and Conductor Randal A Buikema leads his company well as they create a lush, full sound on this intricate G&S score. The beautiful opening overture almost makes one want to close one’s eyes and just listen, except then you would miss the lovely play of color on the charming painted set (lighting design by Jon Brophy, set design by Larry Rostad). The musical delights only continue from there as the cast joins in, so many that they barely all fit on the sloped stage!

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Iolanthe is a hilarious and well performed light opera by an enthusiastic crowd of actors, singers, and musicians. But what is most interesting is the brain power behind all of these instruments. Many musicians have very high-end day jobs or are currently looking for the next opportunity, but one thing we all have in common is a love of music and the arts.

If you have never talked to a pit orchestral musician – professional or amateur – there is much to learn on what goes on behind the scenes both on and off stage.

Semi-professional pit musician’s rotate in and out of the orchestra over a period of a month for the duration of the show. They stack us on top of one-another off to the side of the stage so as to give the stage a bigger platform yet still preserve the musical integrity of what is being performed.  With five or so rehearsal prior to opening night a calendar is created for the musicians and we sign-in at each rehearsal or performance to get the nominal pay. This symbiotic relationship between the conductor, the cast and fellow musicians provides we musicians with a fabulous musical experience and outlet, keeps the conductor happy, ensures all musical parts are covered well and most importantly allows many of us the ability to balance the trials of life, family, friends and work.

Check out our opening night review.  After 30 years, this team really knows how to cheer up a fellow musician after experiencing a very difficult work week.

Tickets are still available for this fun, silly, and satirical comic opera (continuing weekends through March 20).

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