Neath Operatic Society
Since its inception many people have contributed greatly to make Neath Amateur Operatic Society a success. It would be an almost impossible task to name everyone involved over the years but three men in particular have to be mentioned - namely Matthew Davies, Tom Dummer and Evan Lewis.
In 1911 the three went to see a performance of 'Princess Ida" by Swansea Amateur Operatic Society and as a result of this visit the seed was sown to start a society in Neath. Matthew Davies a very well known musician discussed this new venture with members of his male voice choir and it was decided that a society should be formed. There was an enthusiastic response and subsequently a motif was held at Gnoll Road Chapel schoolroom. Matthew Davies was appointed musical director and in 1912 the society staged "The Mikado" at Vints Hippodrome (now the site of the recently demolished Windsor Cinema). In 1913 Neath Amateurs chose 'The Gondoliers' as their show at the Gnoll Hall. Activities were suspended during "The Great War" of 1913-18 but 1919 saw a performance of 'The Yeomen of the Guard' at the Gwyn Hall. Shows continued to be staged at the Gwyn Hall unlike 1926 when the Gilbert and Sullivan opera 'Ruddigore' was performed at the Gnoll Hall.
Over the years productions have become more and more ambitious not only for the players but for the hard working back stage crew. Imagination, hard work, time and great deal of thought has gone into making scenery and 'props'. Lighting plots have become far more sophisticated, radio microphones are used and the wardrobe department is always kept busy.
Without their dedication the staging of musicals would be very difficult indeed. Who will forget the transformations of the Gwyn Hall Stage into a chessboard for the staging of the Abba musical 'Chess' in 1994. Wonderful scenery and special effects added to the success of 'Scrooge' in 2001.
Dancing has always played a large role in many productions. In 1991 many people believed that the big social dance scene with 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' would be impossible to stage. However the twenty one young leads who took part in this wonderful show proved to the public how talented and dedicated they were.
Many American musicals have been chosen by the society in recent years '42nd Street', 'George M', the Welsh Premiere of 'Meet me in St Louis' 'Crazy for You' etc. In 2003 Lord Lloyd Webber's 'Jesus Christ Superstar' was the choice for the November production. Yet again it proved to be a big success.
In 2000 a Neath Youth Group was formed. They have presented concerts and have taken part in a major production with the Society. They seem to be going from strength to strength and it looks like a good omen for the future of the Society, with the hard work and dedication of youth director Zoe Richards and musical director Anthony Argyle. Sadly The Gwyn Hall was destroyed by fire in 2007 and the society were forced to look for a suitable venue to stage their productions. However, with the rebuilding of the Gwyn Hall and its opening in 2012, it is more than likely that productions will return to the society's home town.
The enthusiasm of its members and the continual support of the people of Neath and District has made the society an institution. Neath, as all amateur operatic societies are indebted to the loyalty and hard work of their excellent musical directors and accompanists over the years without who much of their success would not have been possible.