(1925 - 1970)

by Ceinwen Jones

One would have to go back for many many years before one could hope to find a D'Oyly Carte singer more universally popular than Alan Styler - with colleagues and with the public, with men and women alike. His 1960 marriage with chorister Vera Ryan broke many a female heart; for thirteen years he had been head of the heart-throbs.

Alan was only seventeen when he joined the Grenadier Guards in the War, and, as he had studied singing before that, he became a professional singer when he was demobilised. Soon after joining the Opera Company as a chorister in 1947 he was promoted to some of the principal baritone parts, and his performances have delighted audiences in America and Canada as well as here.

His final appearance with the company, after being advised by his doctor to give up the strenuous touring life, was as Samuel in "The Pirates of Penzance" at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on 1st June 1968.

As soon as Alan stepped into the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, he became one of the "Bright Young Men" of the post-war crowd. At that time very few members travelled by car, and a Sunday morning train call was the scene of a fashion parade, especially where the ladies were concerned. The men also wore their 'Sunday best', and Alan was always among the best-dressed of them, boasting on one occasion of being the proud possess or of a Saville Row suit!

A card school had always been a feature of the train journeys, and Alan soon became part of it, and remained so whenever we travelled by train in America. In England, however, the era of cars in the Company was approaching, and Alan, along with several other members, became an L driver in a Stratford-on-Avon season and then the proud possessor of his first car.

Whatever he did, whether it was a game of cards, driving a car, playing golf, fishing, or, last but not least, performing on the stage, Alan was always full of enthusiasm. As an artist he endeared himself to listeners both here and in America.

One couldn't really quarrel with him. He had his own 'Book of Phrases', and when one differed with him he always came out with some remark that usually turned the quarrel into a friendly chat.

He was an excellent mimic too. In Company parties there was nothing he enjoyed more than 'taking off' members of the Company. He loved an audience!

It needed no untimely death to make us all aware of Alan Styler's astounding popularity. His bosses thought the world of him; his colleagues say they never had a cross word or an argument with him; and his public throughout Great Britain, Canada, and the United States quite simply adored him. As Mr. Frederic Lloyd said in his address at the Memorial Service at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, he was universally loved.

"That was Alan, happy and gay", says Brian Peach, "and anyone who was with him soon fell under the spell of his infectious laughter." Jon Ellison, thinking back over the years, dwells chiefly on examples of Alan's wit and good humour. When a stranger asked him at a party what his work was, his hands began to shake violently and he replied, "A brain surgeon." When he was asked if he had seen the film, "The Bible", he said, "No, but I've read the book."

He was quite conscious of his good looks and charm, but instead of assuming any mock modesty he sought to treat them as a joke and to use them to entertain people. When he breezed into the office at Savoy Hill it was usually with a cry of "Hello, girls! How's my fan club?" Rejoining the Company after an illness he shouted at the bottom of the staircase where all could hear him. "The Golden Voice is back!"

Ask anyone to talk about Alan today, and you will hear about his happy wit, his infectious laughter, his triumphant gaiety; and more likely than not you will hear some enchanting story of his courageous humour in his long battle against ill health. How could anyone fail to love a man who, just before a lung operation, wrote, "All being well, it shouldn't be long before the Golden Baritone rings through the theatres of the land once more", and "My operation is tomorrow at 9.30 a.m. It is like waiting to go on for a new part except for the fact that I don't have to worry about the words"? Those who went to see him in hospital in an attempt to cheer him up found the boot was well and truly on the other leg; they were apt to spend the visit roaring with laughter at the entertainment provided by the patient.

In every family, weddings and funerals are often the only occasion when old members meet each other. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company is such a family, and Alan's memorial service certainly proved it so. I have been present on several such occasions in D'Oyly Carte, and never have I experienced such a 'happy sadness'. This seems a contradiction in terms, but I am sure it will be understood by those who were present. There were members representing the years 1946 - 1970, and I venture to say that each of them has heard "Hi, kid", "So what, kid", and "Okay, kid" from Alan on many occasions and had experienced his friendship. In fact the environment was filled with the spirit of Alan, and we shall all remember him as someone who could always turn a cloud into sunshine.

Alan Styler, born in Redditch, was with the company from 1947 to 1968 and played the parts of Cox, Associate, Counsel, Captain Corcoran, Samuel, Grosvenor, Strephon, Mountararat, Florian, Pish-Tush, 2nd Yeoman, Lieutenant, Antonio and Giuseppe.

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