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Carlisle Musical Society History The Society was created in 1928 on the initiative of Charles Eastwood who was the organist and choirmaster of St Cuthbert’s Church. He was also for many years a teacher of music at Carlisle Grammar School (now part of Trinity School).

He felt that there was a need for an organisation to perform “operas” and the constitution of the Society on its formation referred to the performance of operas which would be selected by the “producer” and in the early years this meant Mr Eastwood, whose role was similar to that of the current and most of the post-war Musical Directors.

The selection of productions is now a matter for the Society’s Committee which of course seeks the views of members. A major factors affecting show selection is that it is necessary to obtain a licence from the holders of the copyright of a show and this is not simply a formality and many shows are not always available for amateur production as sometimes they are not available because of professional production plans. At one time a prime factor affecting the selection of a show was a desire that the show should be totally cast from within the Society’s membership but in recent years shows have been selected in the knowledge that it might be necessary to cast principal roles from outside of the Society.

For a few years from the mid 1950’s until the early 1960’s the Carlisle Light Operatic Society performed works similar to the Musical Society in Her Majesty’s Theatre. After the closure of which it produced one financially unsuccessful show in the Lonsdale Cinema following which the Society was wound up and some of its members moved to the Musical Society.

The first production of the Musical Society was Merrie England by Edward German in Her Majesty’s Theatre in Lowther Street, Carlisle which was the Society’s home until its closure in the 1960’s. Merrie England was repeated in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Productions were suspended following the production of The Desert Song in 1940 because of the second World War and productions resumed in 1952 with The Quaker Girl.

Following the closure of Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1962, the Society successfully transferred to the City Hall adjacent to Tullie House in Castle Street Carlisle with a repeat production of Oklahoma! and continued to use the Hall until it was demolished to allow for an extension of the Museum and Art Gallery. The last production in the City Hall was The Pajama Game in 1988. During its period at the City Hall , the Society presented annual songs from the shows concerts to raise funds to assist in the production costs of shows. For several years these concerts also featured the Carlisle St Stephen's Band.

The Society used the Green Room Theatre in West Walls to stage a concert to commemorate its 60th anniversary in 1988 and also used the Crown and Mitre for 2 concerts before moving to the Newman School in 1990 where it presented Showboat.

The Newman School hall had many deficiencies, the seats were not very comfortable in spite of the Society providing cushions, the viewing from the floor of the hall was not ideal and there was a shortage of wing space. Despite these factors 9 book shows were presented in the hall and in addition the Society commenced its current policy of staging a themed non-book show to raise funds. Two of these were presented in the Stanwix Arts Theatre at the Art College.

The production difficulties at The Newman School were increased by the Cumbria Fire Officer restricting the use of the area on the left side of the stage to improve the emergency escape route for the audience and following the production of The Sound of Music in Spring 2000 the Society presented Millennium Edition in the Stanwix Arts Theatre in the Autumn of 2000.

In 2001 the Society encouraged by the Centre management moved to The Sands Centre , Carlisle. The Society , as a non-commercial user pays 50% of the normal hire charges but has to meet the full cost of setting, up, stage crew, lighting , front of house staff etc although as a special concession the Society does not pay box office fees for its book shows. Winter non-book show productions have been staged under the News and Star Light up a Life Appeal in aid of the Eden Valley Hospice and since 2002 has raised £13,894.54.

The Society is always looking for new members, and at present is short of tenors and baritones, but also needs non-singing members for some acting parts and also to assist in sales of programmes etc at its productions. Members pay a nominal annual subscription and also a voluntary weekly payment to provide basic funds and additional funds are raised from the provision of refreshments at rehearsals.

Rehearsing for the December concerts commences after the book show in the spring, usually after a break of a couple of weeks and continues until around the end of June, resuming in September. Until a few weeks before the concert there will normally only be one rehearsal per week.

Rehearsing for the spring book show commences after the December concert and will probably be the first Friday in January and thereafter weekly. Once the casting for the show has been completed around the end of January, additional rehearsals will be called. In the final fortnight before the show there will be 3 or 4 rehearsals per week and depending on the dates of Easter and the show it is sometimes necessary to rehearse over Easter weekend. It may sound like hard work but most members enjoy performing plus the social contact and a good natter with refreshments during and after a rehearsal.