A salute to baritone John Reed, eminent Gilbert and Sullivan specialist
Somehow, even in the age of the instant message and 24-hour news cycle, I failed to notice reports of John Reed's death on Feb. 13, the English singer/actor's 94th birthday, in Halifax, Yorkshire.
For any fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, this comic baritone means a great deal. He was a major presence for decades on the G&S scene, from the early 1950s, when he made his debut with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in London, on into more recent decades as a performer and director in the U.S. and England. He was featured in numerous recordings of the operettas, invariably shining. He just seemed to have the G&S style in his DNA.
After retiring from the stage, he directed the West Yorkshire Savoyards, doing his bit, as long as health permitted, to keep the great tradition alive. He's survived by his partner of 52 years, Nicholas Kerri.
(Mr. Reed's passing reminds me that the G&S operettas have been energetically preserved in Baltimore, where the Young Victorian Theatre Company will celebrate its 40th anniversary season this summer with "Iolanthe.")
I know some people are resistant to the charms of the G&S canon. They are
to be pitied, poor dears. The rest of us are fortunate that we can get a continued kick out Gilbert's wordplay (if not necessarily all of his plots) and Sullivan's invariably sparkling, elegant music.
We can also consider ourselves fortunate to have recordings and films that document Mr. Reed's extraordinary contribution to the preservation of the G&S legacy. In memory of this endearing artist, here's a sample of his craft: