Diamond days for Kings Langley's entertainers
PUBLISHED: 11:46 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 20 February 2013
As the Kings Langley Light Opera Company prepares to celebrate 60 years of entertaining the village, Jo Arthur goes behind the curtain with one of the group's founding members
MANY of the 48 or so members who make up the Kings Langley Light Opera Company (KLLOC) have been a part of the 'merry band' for several years but there are not many who will be celebrating six decades of commitment to the group in 2008.
Patricia Sleat, or Tri, as she is best known to her fellow KLLOCers joined with her parents when she returned to her family's new home in the village two years before the end of World War II, aged 15. And she has been involved in some capacity, in almost every performance that has been brought to the stage ever since.
The first shows in the late 1940s were Gilbert and Sullivan classics such as The Gondoliers and The Yeoman of the Guard. These gave way to musical crowd pullers including Merry Widow, South Pacific, Oklahoma and Guys and Dolls. Oliver was first performed by the group in 1973 and a second time 20 years later but, like the title character, the audience is always hungry for more so it was an easy decision to make when the time came to choose what to make their diamond anniversary performance.
Audiences were first accommodated in the local church hall but since the community centre was built, the KLLOC have rehearsed and staged shows there.
Tri explains, 'My dad was one of the people that built the community centre. During the war villagers clubbed together and collected pennies a week for various things, afterwards some still carried on and in the end had enough to build the centre.'
In her prime as well as parts in KLLOC performances, Tri also used to perform 'properly' as a contralto in a choir and in other operatic societies. The Mikado's Katisha and Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady are memorable parts for her because they have good singing parts with a range of notes. But her favourite musical part was as Aunt Ella in Oklahoma.
'I haven't performed properly in the last 18 years. If you've got any sense at all you give up when you're old like me and your voice goes,' she laughs.
After retiring from a career at the BBC, for the last 20 years or so, Tri has been content to follow in the footsteps of both her mother and father before her as KLLOC chairman and president. She is responsible for organising the smooth-running of each performance with help from dedicated committee members, although she does stray onto the stage every once in a while as a mad opera singer which she loves doing.
As preparations for the 60th bash begin Tri thinks back to the early performances and hopes that the company can continue to thrive to reach another landmark celebration.
'I can't quite believe we've been going so long,' she says. 'We're quite a happy little crowd with a fun committee but it's getting harder and harder to afford to put them on. We have to organise fundraisers throughout the year now to pay for the music, costumes and set otherwise we'd have to charge people prices they wouldn't want to pay to come to see us. Our performances are improving each year and I hope we will continue for some time yet.'
The warm and friendly society is always willing to welcome newcomers, so why not go along and 'consider yourself one of the family'.
Article taken from October issue of Hertfordshire Life