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Although never a great singer, I was an enthusiastic cellist in my school orchestra, and played in three Gilbert and Sullivan productions in my teens: The Mikado, Patience and The Gondoliers. I inherited my love of G&S from my dad, who had many D’Oyly Carte recordings - I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Martyn Green’s voice doing the patter songs. I was always interested in the less famous ones - I bought him an original poster of The Sorcerer for his 75th birthday.

When I was cast as Siegfried Farnon, I started thinking about building a character. As you may know, Siegfried and Tristan in the James Herriot books are named because of their father’s love of Wagner. For all sorts of reasons, only one of which is that I don’t know much Wagner, I thought it wasn’t wise to make Siegfried a Wagnerian. But I wanted to keep some connection with opera, so I thought perhaps of G&S. After that things sort of fell into place. I’m a good whistler, so when bits of G&S suggested themselves to a scene, I asked our lead director Brian Percival if I could put one in. They didn’t always make the final cut, but by the end of the first series I’d managed snatches of Pinafore, The Mikado, Patience, Iolanthe (the Nightmare Song), Pirates, Yeomen and Ruddigore. Plus It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (music: A. Sullivan) for the Christmas episode!

I was enjoying myself, so I started to branch out a bit. In series 2 I managed The Mikado, Pinafore and Iolanthe again, plus a bit of Princess Ida (The Woman of the Wisest Wit) and eventually even The Sorcerer. I’ve got a few more up my sleeve for Series 5, which we started last week.

Some people seemed to like spotting these Easter eggs, including you!  I was delighted to be approached by The Stamford G&S Players recently, and very happy to accept their kind offer to become an Honorary Patron. The tradition of non-professional performance in this country is one I have a lot of time for. Art isn't just something we consume as made by other people - we often get the most out of it when we make it ourselves. Singing and playing together is one of the great pleasures of life. We all know the thrill of being part of something bigger than ourselves; for some people, that thrill can be life-changing.

These great works have become part of the musical fabric of this country (and, increasingly, the world), and at a time when amateur music-making is threatened by the rarity of music at state primary level and the increasing privatisation of music lessons, the joy Gilbert and Sullivan operas still bring to audiences and performers alike must be treasured and renewed. I look forward to my first Stamford production, and I wish them every success with it.

Samuel West

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