A MUSICAL society is set to bring its 50th birthday celebrations to a close next month with a performance of a popular Gilbert and Sullivan production.

The Three Towns Operatic Society will be staging The Mikado at St Joseph's Hall on Chapel Street in Leigh from Tuesday, May 14 to Saturday, May, 18.

The society was established on May 23, 1968 after Tyldesley Boys Secondary School teacher Neville Parry placed an advert in the Journal.

He asked music lovers to get in touch with him about forming a singing group.

This led to the formation of the Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Operatic Society.

A year later the name of the group was changed to The Three Towns and their first production at Leigh Boys Grammar School was The Gondoliers.

The group solely performed Gilbert and Sullivan productions until 1996 before deciding to take on other shows.

Leigh Journal:

Members of The Three Towns Operatic Society

There have been many individual success stories over the years including Bryan Secombe who now sings with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden.

Rebecca Goulden was a finalist in BBC Radio 2 Choirgirl of the Year 1998 and dancer Ben Warbis now performs with the Michael Clark Company.

Many of the current society members have also won awards and performed across the country at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.

Behind the stage, the society has always been backed up with plenty of support in roles in charge of props, costumes and front of house operations.

Financial support from associate members has helped to keep the society running too.

After the curtain closes on The Mikado, musical director Rod Dakin, 80, will be stepping down from his role of musical director after 22 years.

He first joined the society and said he would probably stay for a couple of years but that changed once he got involved.

Leigh Journal:

Rod is rehearsal for a production

Rod, from Newtown, said: “This is such a friendly society, it is a family, I felt so welcome, I did not want to leave.”

"I have conducted all the shows and concert programmes for this society since 1997.

"After a few years my wife Margaret became the official society accompanyist until her death from cancer in 2009.

"The support given to me by the members of the society at that time was remarkable and invaluable.

"As I retire from the society after the 2019 production of the Mikado, I look back with pleasure at the society’s achievements during these years and the privilege of working with some very talented soloists.

"It has been incredibly rewarding observing the great pleasure experienced by new members during their first show, the joy and sense of achievement of members taking their first solo part, and being able to share in their delight.

"I have also been very fortunate in working with director David Kay.

"I remarried in 2015, Lorraine coming from the contralto section of the society. "This was a joyous event shared by many society members, who sang for us in church during the signing of the register, and at the reception, some even tried the bouncy castle.

"The Three Towns has represented a significant part of our lives, and we both hope to remain in contact with our friends for many years to come.”

Rod conducted his first show in the 1960s, a Gilbert and Sullivan operatta when he was head of music at John Rigby Grammar School.

He was instrumental in forming Orrell and District Operatic Society.

After more than 20 years he retired from his duties in Orrell to take on a new challenge.

He was invited to become the musical director of The Three Towns Operatic Society and conducted his first show, Ruddigore, in 1997.

The Three Towns chairman Ann Batchelor said: “We are very thankful for Ron's dedication, skills and all the hard work he has given to this society.

"On behalf of the society we wish him and his wife Lorraine all the very best for the future.”

Tickets for The Mikado are priced at £11 and £13 with concessions available.

To book tickets for The Mikado contact 01942 605369 or visit thethreetowns.net.

If you are interested in becoming The Three Town's musical director go to the website or contact secretary Ursula Lightford on 01942 670284.

The society also held a two-night concert in November at St Joseph’s Hall which included Broadway and West End songs to mark its half-century anniversary.