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