Homestead’s Role in Light Opera


May, 2012

"Mikado," Marin Art and Garden Center, July 1954. Click on the image to see a larger version.

“Mikado,” Marin Art and Garden Center, July 1954.
Click on the image to see a larger version.

In 1952, several musicians met in Mill Valley and decided to form a local light opera company. Barry Mineah gathered people from vocal groups around Marin. He soon had a chorus of some 35 voices. His own church choir from the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Mill Valley formed the nucleus. He also lined up a 16 piece orchestra.

The Mill Valley Light Opera Company’s first performance was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury” in May 1953. Encouraged by its success, the company expanded for a November 1953 performance at Tam High of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” which ran for two nights.

In July 1954, the company performed Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” at the Marin Art and Garden Center amphitheater in Ross. There were 41 singers and an orchestra of 27 musicians. All four performances received standing ovations for musical excellence. There followed three more Gilbert and Sullivan works: “Iolanthe,” “Gondoliers” and finally, “Princess Ida” performed at San Rafael High School in June 1957. All concerts were benefits for the Episcopal Church in Mill Valley.

The Mill Valley Record reported that Hughes Call of Homestead Valley gave an excellent performance as “Pooh-Bah” in “Mikado”. His debut performance as “Sergeant of Police” in “Pirates of Penzance” had also been excellent. Hughes Call was on the board of directors of the Mill Valley Light Opera Company, and his wife, Volinda, was in the Ladies chorus. Both also served all productions in other ways.

Their son, Alex Call, who was a boy at the time recently recalled those days: “The gals had a Monday sewing circle for years during which they made the costumes and drank sherry and gossiped endlessly. They had great cast parties, with many guests at 315 Montford — the house and deck would be packed to the rafters with glamorous people, some of whom would be found sleeping it off the next morning on couches throughout the house. We had three grand pianos, so there was never any lack of music.”

In 1976, the Homestead Valley Community Association purchased the Call home at 315 Montford. It is now the Homestead Valley Community Center.

If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.