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ISIDORE GODFREY

At the time of his retirement in 1968 - though he continued to act as adviser - Isidore Godfrey had been with the company for 42 years, 39 of them as musical director.

"Manchester has played quite an important part in my life" he recalled, "I joined the D'Oyly Carte there, celebrated my fortieth anniversary there, and had my farewell party there - though I had fallen ill and was not able to attend the party, at which I was represented by my wife!" (Anne Drummond-Grant)

He conducted all the operas with the exception of "The Grand Duke" and Utopia Ltd", though he recorded excerpts from the latter. He had a high regard for "The Sorcerer" which he conducted before the war.

It was the presence of the stage band of the Grenadier Guards for the entry of the procession of peers in "Iolanthe" which, "Goddie" said, gave him one of the biggest thrills of his career. He must, however, have experienced many other thrills during his many years with the company and not least among them would surely be the welcome he received during his ninth tour of North America.

To quote the critic's review from the New York Herald Tribune of 18th November, 1964, on a performance of "Iolanthe" and under the heading "A glad report that all's well with D'Oyly Carte", the reviewer writes: "The sunrise is a beautiful sight and so is the rising of the moon. To the lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan - and we are legion, bless us all - there is an even more inspiring sight. It is the emergence out of the orchestra pit of Mr. Isidore Godfrey, who has been the conductor of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company since roughly A.D. 1066. Mr. Godfrey rose into the ascendant phase at City Center last night at approximately 7:36, The carrot thatch we have loved all these years has now burnished to a silver gold alloy but it could have been dark green for all we cared. What really mattered was that he was there . . . and that the Company was in superb condition., the best that it has been in for years." And the New York Times of the same date reported "Isidore Godfrey, happily a fixture in the pit, leads the overture with a respect and affection for its delicacies and that is the fashion in which he orders the musical side of the entire performance."

These delightful tributes give some indication of the affection and esteem in which "Goddie" was held in the United States and it goes without saying that on this side of the Atlantic also he holds an equally high and well-deserved place in the affection of his audiences. His whole life was devoted to the musical direction of these Gilbert and Sullivan Operas which form such a unique and immensely popular part of the English musical tradition. "Goddie's" supporters have left him in no doubt as to the success of his life's work!

He once said in an interview how glad he was to see so many of the younger generation in his audiences. It must have been a great source of satisfaction to him to know that love of Gilbert and Sullivan is by no means confined to the elderly, as some critics would have us believe, and that the reactions of the young to their first D'Oyly Carte performance are invariably those of their forbears - enchanted delight. It is very much thanks to "Goddie" (and of course others) that this is the case, for he was so long responsible for the very high musical standards maintained.

Besides his audiences, he has also had an extensive following amongst the amateur operatic societies and Gilbert and Sullivan societies which he was always so ready to help and to advise with their own productions.

In 1965 Isidore Godfrey was awarded the O.B.E. in the Queen's birthday honours.

At his last performance as Musical Director of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company - on February 24th 1968 at the Saville Theatre, London - it would not have been surprising if the roof of the theatre had blown off, so tremendous was the reception given to him, first when he made his appearance in the orchestra pit - spotlighted for the first time in his career - at the start of the programme, and secondly when he took his bow on stage at the end of the evening. One hears of standing ovations given to a politician or a prima donna, but on this occasion it was a spontaneous demonstration of the real affection in which 'Goddie' is held by artists and audiences alike.

Loyal service of forty-three years is to he commended in any field, but Goddie's devotion to the Company and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan was unsurpassed. It was Sir Arthur Sullivan who once wrote in a moment of self-criticism that "the cobbler should stick to his last" and there can be no better example of this truth than "Goddie", who stuck to his for so many years, tolerated no lowering of standards, and now ranks with the great Savoyards.

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