The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

Fay Magazine: Summer 2018 - Pirates!

Tony Brock-Fisher ‘68 Reflects on the 1968 Production of Pirates of Penzance:

In contemplation of the 50th anniversary the Fay class of 1968, I have spent many moments reflecting on my experiences at Fay. I can still recall vividly the memories of those times – the friends, the challenges, and the special events of school life.

One very special event which I am able to share with you is the 1968 production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. These mini-musicals were put on once every year and were masterfully directed by Seaver Gilcreast Sr., with Mr. Renfro providing musical accompaniment on the piano. With a wide range of student ages, some whose voices had changed and others whose had not, the then all-boys Fay was able to fill all the roles, male and female, for a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

I had been a fan of G&S even before I arrived at Fay, and never missed a chance to be in the cast. My senior year in 1968, I made up my mind to try out for a solo part and was able to make the cut as the Sergeant of Police. Rehearsals began in the dead of winter, leading up to a final dress rehearsal followed by a full production on Winter Weekend, attended by parents and relatives.

We rehearsed often, and I can't imagine the patience that Mr. Gilcreast and Mr. Renfro must have had with a bunch of boys, many of whom took advantage of this break from the normal routine for some 'recreational misbehavior'. But over the weeks, we learned the songs and the words, as well as the choreography for our syncopated movements on the stage. Mr. Gilcreast directed from the gym floor, and Mr. Renfro would tirelessly repeat selections over and over on the piano until we got it right. Besides simply being able to sit down and play the entire production through without missing a single note, Mr. Renfro had the uncanny ability to help less confident singers through their selections, by varying the tempo just enough to encourage them to sing out proudly. Most of all, they had a wonderful sense of humor!

Ours was not an 'official' Gilbert & Sullivan, by any means. I'm sure it was somewhat condensed for the abilities of the cast and mercy towards the audience. As well as being shortened, words were changed here and there for comedic contributions. Many times, a solo cast member would fluff the lyrics of a song in rehearsal, and the results were so funny that Mr. Gilcreast would make them a permanent part of the production!

Well, after what seemed like months of endless rehearsals, the big night of full dress rehearsal finally arrived. Military uniforms, pirate garb, and dresses were put on. Makeup was applied, along with false mustaches adhered with tincture of benzoin. It seemed like a good idea that fellow student (I think it was Barry Carman ‘68) record the entire run-through with his cassette tape recorder (which was the size of a shoe-box, but the height of technology at the time). After the production, I listened to the tape and was amazed at how well it had captured our voices. As I listened, I had an interesting idea. At the time, my father owned a small record company, which recorded and produced classical records (on black vinyl discs – maybe you remember those?) We set up the cassette recorder again for the actual production, and with that, we had two full takes, which was enough to edit together one clean run through, editing out the missed cues and busted lines. To make the long story short, my father graciously agreed to finance a limited run of records, which were distributed to the student body.

After my father passed away a few years ago, in his house I found a pristine copy of that record. Through the miracles of modern technology, I have converted the record into two music files, which I include here for your enjoyment.

It certainly was a shock, to hear these voices again (including my own) after 50 years. I'm amazed at the quality of the singing and the production, given that Mr. Gilcreast had nothing older than sixth graders to work with. I hope my classmates from the class of '68 (as well as later classes that were involved in this production as well) enjoy hearing these 'Fay voices from the past'.

Listen carefully as Major General Stanley (Stephen Bushart ‘68) rewrites the entire G&S final verse in the memorable song  "I am the very model of a modern Major-General"; reflecting on contemporary Fay school life, and ending with '...for I am the very model of a psychedelic general and I can't see why the masters don't all go to pot and let me run it all!” 

Watch: Highlights from 1968 Production of The Pirates of Penzance

Listen to the full production