Norma Evans and husband Peter, she an experienced producer, and both of them regular performers with local operatic companies, organised a charity performance of popular musical numbers at the Merton Civic Hall on Sunday 3rd February 1985 specifically to raise funds for this purpose. The evening was compered by the popular ventriloquist Ray Alan with Lord Charles (at the time a neighbour and friend of our late chairman, Dick Grenyer). There were selections from shows such as Die Fledermaus, Showboat, South Pacific, Mikado, Gondoliers and many more, performed by experienced principals from the local societies with an extremely large supporting chorus. The title for the evening was "Songs for their Supper".
Over 100 members from The Lyric Players, New Malden Operatic Society, Leatherhead Operatic Society, and a special "Concert Orchestra" put together from the societies' show orchestras, came together for this wonderful evening. In view of this response, and the fact that the evening was so well received, Norma and Peter wondered whether a new Operatic Company could be formed, specifically to put on the types of musicals and operettas they most enjoyed.
After several months of preliminary work, the first meeting to establish the new Epsom Light Opera Company was held at Ewell Court House in December 1985. A founding committee was formed, and the rest, as they say, is history. The first coming together of the company was for another charity concert in aid of Ethiopian Relief at the Epsom Playhouse in January 1986, followed by performing at the Mayor's Charity Concert three months later. Here Marilyn Hill Smith (probably best known for being a favourite of "Friday Night is Music Night" on BBC Radio) was one of the celebrity guests, and was invited to associate herself with the company. She agreed to become its Patron and has remained a staunch friend ever since. The company put on its first show (Orpheus in the Underworld) in October 1986.
The company is now well established as an award-winning society performing twice yearly (mostly to full houses) at the Epsom Playhouse. A full list of its Past Shows is available under that title on the Menu. It still performs some of the types of operettas and musicals Norma started it for, but with a growing youth membership has expanded into more adventurous shows as well - such as the 2006 Hot Mikado - and the NODA Award Winning The Witches of Eastwick in 2008!
It is with much regret that dearest Peter Evans passed away peacefully on Thursday 24th April at Epsom General Hospital. Our ELOC President will be remembered fondly for his many comic performances with the company, which he founded with his wife Norma. He will be sorely missed by his family, ELOC and all who knew him.
Audio of ELOC's Gilbert and Sullivan Tribute to Peter Evans
On Thursday 15th May, I said goodbye to an old friend, Peter Evans. I have known Peter and his late wife, Norma, for over thirty years. We worked together on stage and also worked together on the founding committee of Epsom Light Opera Company. Indeed, I am the only member of that original committee who is still a member!
We met first at Leatherhead Operatic Society and there then followed the two charity concerts in aid of famine victims in Ethiopia. It was typical of Norma and Peter that they would think of doing such a thing for the benefit of others and I was happy to participate in them. The outcome of these, apart from the money raised, was that they wondered if a new operatic society could be formed and ELOC was born out of an initial exploratory meeting – it is a fantastic legacy that they have left. It will, of course, continue and will be constant a tribute to the founders. Many people, current members, and those of the future, will gain an experience not to be forgotten.
It was clear that Norma was Peter's soul mate. They were inseparable, and he never really recovered from her death. Nevertheless, his interest in ELOC never flagged and he continued to come to most rehearsals and to attend the dress rehearsals and several performances during the show week. It was always good to see him. Latterly, he had curtailed his show week attendance to just President's Night when several dignitaries were invited as company guests. The most recent show in April of this year was the first of these that he had missed but he was, by then, sadly too frail.
Peter's funeral was a wonderful celebration of a life lived to the full with his beloved Norma and his family, to whom he was devoted. The other legacy is of course a family whose ongoing interest and performances with ELOC continue with their son and granddaughter! The congregation heard all about his work, family and amateur operatic life in a fantastic double act from his sons, Kevin and Chris. What a tribute! It was lovely to see our Patron, Marilyn Hill-Smith, who not only attended but sang Panis Angelicus beautifully. I also hope that both he and Norma, with whom he is now reunited, enjoyed the company singing of some of his favourite G&S songs!!
He will be missed but the memories are many and happy!