St. Paul’s Cathedral Tours

June 20, 2012

St. Paul’s Cathedral offers guided tours on the first Sunday of each month until December 2, 2012. We’re always keen to tell you about chances to tour buildings built in London ON the 1840s, especially buildings with connections to the Garrison.

The cornerstone of St. Paul’s Cathedral (472 Richmond St.) was laid in 1844, after St. Paul’s Church, a frame building constructed in 1834, caught fire, and burned to the ground. The narthex (lobby area) contains a monument to the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, “who fell in the Battle of Alma in the Crimea in 1854.” The transept contains the military colours of former London regiments.

When: First Sunday of each month until December 2nd, 2012.

(Sunday, July 1st, August 5, September 2nd, October 7th, November 4th, December 2nd)

Time: 11:30am – 12:00pm

Where: St. Paul’s Cathedral, 472 Richmond St., at the corner of Queens and Richmond Streets.

Eldon House’s River Walk

June 3, 2012

We always love to tell you about opportunities to experience a slice of early London history here at Garrison Theatricals, and here is one of them. Eldon House periodically hosts one of Museum London’s walking tours, the River Walk:

“Eldon House’s highly-regarded River Walk explores the founding of London, historic events such as the Great Flood, and discovers nature in this interactive walking tour around the Thames River.”


Saturday, June 9th or Saturday July 21st.
Time: 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM.
Where: Meet on the front lawn for Museum London.
Cost: Free.

(Museum London will be offering six different walking tours on Saturdays in June and July, from 10:30 to 12:00PM, rain or shine).

Two of Miller’s Men in Broadway By Request

May 26, 2012

Poster for the Broadway Singers' "Broadway By Request"Two cast members from Miller and His Men (John Biehn and Neila Lawson), are part of the Broadway Singers’ “Broadway By Request” today (May 26th, 2012) in the Wolf Performance Hall in the Central Library. Performances are at 2PM and 7:30PM.

The Broadway Singers will be singing selections from Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Carousel, Chess, Guys and Dolls, and Wicked. Should be a wonderful time!


Saturday, May 26, 2012 – Season Finale
The Broadway Singers Present:
Broadway by Request

Location: Wolf Performance Hall
251 Dundas St., Central Library, London, Ontario

Matinee 2:00 pm
Evening 7:30 pm

Price: $20.00

Dan Brock’s chronology of London — Fragments from the Forks: London Ontario’s Legacy

September 24, 2011
Daniel J Brock Fragments From the Forks book cover

Daniel J. Brock / Fragments From the Forks: London Ontario's Legacy (2011)

Dan Brock will shortly be launching his long-awaited chronology of London, Ontario—Fragments from the Forks: London Ontario’s Legacy.  The nearly 500 page volume is edited by Catherine B. McEwen (The Carty Chronicles of Landmarks and Londoners), and published by The London and Middlesex Historical Society. Fragments from the Forks documents events in London from the ice age through to 2010. Given the scrupulous care that Brock takes in documenting primary source information, this will undoubtedly become a standard reference work for London historians.

“Nothing on this scale,” says Brock, “has ever been attempted for the city of London before.”

Fragments From the Forks contains five parts:

  1. the chronology (over 4,500 entries)
  2. illustrations (maps and never before published photos)
  3. tables (population statics, city mayors, county wardens, police and fire chiefs, Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, MPPs, MPs, a consumer price index for the years 1761 through 2010)
  4. two pages of abbreviations
  5. an index (47 pages each with three columns)

The London and Middlesex Historical Society will be hosting a book launch on Saturday, October 15th, 2011, from 1PM to 4PM at Attic Books (240 Dundas St., London, ON). Copies will be available at $40 for softcover and $50 for the hardcover edition.

The cover (right), depicts the Walter J. Blackburn memorial fountain (which officially opened in May 2009) superimposed on a landscape that hearkens back to a forks prior to settlement: all of London’s history encapsulated. The arcs of the fountain itself can be seen as the Fragments of the title.

Melodrama, “Miller”, G&S and Us

July 19, 2011

Joe Lella, Director

Pirate King

JB Amerongen’s The Actor in Dickens (1972) disparages melodrama in early 19th Century England. He states that the English love this mode of entertainment which has “continued down to the present day without there being much improvement in its insignificant plot, and for the most part, shallow wit.” He includes Isaac Pocock’s The Miller and His Men) in this scathing assessment, and says that only the work of Gilbert and Sullivan is a “brilliant exception” (p. 107).

Isaac Pocock’s The Miller and His Men was first produced in “big” London in 1813. It achieved some success and was later produced in Upper Canada (1842) at London’s first theatre, The Theatre Royal. We present it now as an homage to that theatre.

G & S’s first collaboration hit the boards in England in 1871, some sixty years later. By 2011 we thought it was time to inject new life into “Miller”, especially if we were to offer it to contemporary audiences. Our use of beautiful G& S songs and choruses from The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and Patience, recognizes these gentlemen’s rather dubious melodramatic heritage while enriching our adaptation of Pocock’s work.

Along with G&S’ music, we have tried to appeal to modern Canadian audiences by up-dating “Miller’s” language, nudging it towards Jane Austen’s effective and simple prose dating approximately from the same era. Our reading of “Miller” found it abounding in stuffy early 19th century verbiage. This may be unfair since we, of course, didn’t live then. But Jane Austen did and her language is like a clear drink of water compared to Pocock’s stale tea. Our language doesn’t achieve what hers does but maybe a later version shall approach it.

We trust we’ve made the play more engaging for our modern audience too by setting it near our London in Upper Canada almost immediately after the repression, exile, and executions of many MacKenzie and Papineau/Patriote (Lower Canada) Rebels (1837-1838). The British colonial power was wary of lingering rebel sympathisers and of possible American incursions into Southern Ontario. They sent a garrison here to keep an eye on things.

Pirates of Penzance Poster

Our play is set in a forested area, north of London. An old miller’s beautiful young daughter is pursued by two suitors: one older, but rich; another hard working, handsome and young but poor. The young hero makes a secret pledge to rid the land of robbers (clandestine rebels) who despise the crown and are yearning for Canada’s independence. The old miller knows not their dark intentions and how they have stolen his mill.  The hero shall try to restore the fortunes of the old miller to win the hand of the beautiful daughter. Little does he know that the older suitor is one of the rebels (bandits) and has darker plans for them all. These plans, however, must contend not only with the hero’s wily resolve but the force of the local British Garrison and its leader, Sir Walter Watford Hill, who pines for his dear ‘Loretta,” and his batman, Wilbur, who yearns for thick slices of roast beef.

Audiences are urged to cheer the heroes, and boo the villains!

Rather than what William Archer called melodrama then, i.e. tragedy without reason, we here present “almost tragedy” with historical reasons—or rather with the rationale that it might lead to greater appreciation of our heritage. That our play is being staged in a period barn (like London’s first theatre, the Theatre Royal) can only heighten this.

We have not, however, foresworn “corny” melodrama. Heritage can be campy fun.

Isaac Pocock’s plot for “Miller” fit the London situation in 1842 beautifully. The slightly adapted G&S music and lyrics fit it like a glove. For historic ‘verisimilitude’ we added a couple of 19th century Canadian songs for good patriotic measure (our show opened not long after Canada Day!).

And after all is said and sung, we dare our audiences—dare you—not to enjoy this corn filled, but puffed up and patriotic pastry.

Songs Adapted for The Miller and His Men, in order of performance

Pour Oh Pour the Rebel Lager, sung by Miller’s Men
(Gilbert & Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance, Pour Oh Pour the Pirate Sherry)
Sorry Her Lot Who Loves Too Well,
sung by Claudine (G&S, HMS Pinafore)
Stay, Lucas, Stay/Ah Leave Me Not to Pine,
sung by Claudine, Lucas (G&S, Pirates, Stay Frederic Stay)
Stay Prithee Stay, sung by Claudine, Sir Walter, Wilbur, Kelmar
(G&S, Pirates, Stay Frederic Stay)
Une Canadienne Errante, sung by Margot, Caroline
(Lyrics, Un Canadien Errant, M.A. Gerin-Lajoie [with translation])
I Hear the Soft Note…, sung by Margot, Caroline
(G&S, Patience)
•  Sad is that Woman’s Lot/Silvered is the Auburn Hair,
sung by Ravina (G&S, Patience, Silvered is the Raven Hair)
• Reprise, Pour Oh Pour, sung by Miller’s Men
(G&S, Pirates of Penzance)
The Maple Leaf Forever
(Alexander Muir (1867), with the 2010 version of Vladimir Radian’s lyrics)
Hail Poetry, sung by Miller’s Men (G&S, Pirates)
A Grenadier, sung by grenadiers and cast in finale
(G&S, HMS Pinafore, A British Tar)


Milling in London Today

July 12, 2011

This is the sixth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

Milling in London Today by Dave Burnett

London continues today to be a major Ontario milling centre, from the small flour mill at Arva (still water powered), to Kellogg’s and Casco, two of southern Ontario’s largest buyers of corn. Water power has been replaced by hydro. Mill stones have been replaced with hardened steel. Burlap sacks and sweat have been replaced with sophisticated conveyors, bulk storage and computerized automation. Today’s plants are extensively regulated by all levels of government, protecting both buyers’ and sellers’ interests. The only connection to the military today is the Cheerios served at the breakfast mess.

The Army Comes to Town

July 11, 2011

This is the fifth in an an ongoing series of short posts by Dave Burnett, who trained as a real-life miller, and who also plays the old miller, Kelmar, in The Miller and His Men.

The Army Comes to Town by Dave Burnett

It was advisable for the miller to be on good terms with the local garrison. Many of the commanders had the authority to administer water rights and land holdings—both critical to the mill. The military also came with cash to purchase the flour and food produced by the pioneers in the community.

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West.  Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20

George Russell Dartnell, Old saw mill on the Thames River, from Blackfriar's Bridge, London, Canada West. 25 Oct 1842. Library and Archives Canada, accession number: 1995-28-20