Champagne

Written by Richard Tong

I should have drank more champagne.
– the apocryphal last words of John Maynard Keynes

I can say with a high degree of certainty that John Maynard Keynes
never attended one of the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan
Players’ Victorian Balls. If he had, his famous last words would make
no sense, for the bubbles at last Saturday’s Ball flowed almost as swiftly
and effortlessly as the conversation it accompanied.*

There’s a strong case to be made that HRG&SP’s “Vic Ball” is the most
exciting event in our calendar, and not merely for its attendant rivers
of champagne. Now in its thirteenth year, Vic Ball is an opportunity
for show participants to celebrate, for alumni to reunite, and, above
all, for a community formed around two eccentric Englishmen to
express a most singular belief: that music and art, no matter how silly,
have the power to bring us joy, to bring us beauty, and to bring us a
more perfect understanding of what it means to be human.

Though they are shrouded in layers of absurd situational comedy,
Gilbert’s libretti are, at their heart, intensely human. More than any
other Savoy Opera, The Yeomen of the Guard embodies this penetrating
understanding of human nature. The operetta’s denouement is striking
not only for Gilbert’s typical absurdity but also forits beauty, a fact not
lost on the many audience members who approached our cast and crew
after performances to remark just how affecting Yeomen was.

When I look back on Yeomen, I see a microcosm of my six semesters with
HRG&SP—the initial excitement at being cast, followed by a rush of
stress as opening night creeps closer. Then comes the elation of the first
show, followed by new anxieties before every subsequent performance.
All too soon, the show is over and the set broken into pieces; all one can
hope for is for the process to repeat itself, all over again.

But a show must end, and so too must a blog post. After too many
paragraphs extolling the spirit of Gilbert and Sullivan and its
manifestation in Vic Ball, it is time for me to stop writing and put
away my pen. John Maynard Keynes may not have had enough
champagne in his time, but if this paean to Gilbert and Sullivan is
anything to judge by, I have certainly drunk my fill.

*Keynes also died in 1946, a full sixty years before our first Victorian
Ball.

The Scheme

Written by Richard Tong

The scheme is rash and well may fail,
But ours are not the hearts that quail

The scheme Gilbert sought to describe in the couplet above was one of subterfuge and perversion of justice. While, for legal reasons, the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players can’t honestly make claim to having committed a treasonous felony of equal magnitude to that committed by the characters in The Yeomen of the Guard*, we find the sentiment Gilbert expressed perfectly fitting in describing our attitude as we embark upon our rehearsal process.

This past week has seen our fledgling cast and orchestra take their first few steps in learning the extraordinary libretto and score that is The Yeomen of the Guard. The birds are all caged, the wild beasts all littered down, and the “rack, pincers, and thumbscrews all ready for work.” The other critical instruments—not of torture but of music and theatre (and, shockingly, of musical theatre)—are also being readied.

Over the last seven days, I have personally watched an orchestra rehearse, asked a jester to teach me the art of jesting, and sung indignantly about a girl who loves another man. If this is indicative of events to come, then I can say without hesitation that Yeomen will be quite the event.

Tickets go on sale at the Harvard Box Office on February 23, but in the interim you can find out more about our production on the Happening Now page of our website, and also become a patron to support our production.

Yeomen of the Guard opens in the historic Agassiz Theatre on March 23. Until then, and as we continue to rehearse, we can only look to Gilbert’s words for inspiration:

We may succeed—who can foretell?
May heaven help our hope—farewell!

*or, for that matter, one of greater or lesser magnitude.