The origins of the Society are slightly obscure, but it is believed that 1952 is the crucial date, since it was in that year that the ladies of the Women’s Institute, Great Witley Branch, resolved to form a Choir. It was not long before the members of the Choir realised that the range and scope of the music they could perform would be greatly enhanced by the admission of some gentlemen to their ranks. At about the same time, the link with the Women’s Institute was severed and the Great Witley Choir became an independent body.
The next idea was to attempt a staged work. This is thought to have been HMS Pinafore by Gilbert & Sullivan, and it was performed at the Chantry School in Martley, as were several succeeding productions. The Great Witley Choir thus became the Great Witley Operatic Society.
Meanwhile great things were happening in Worcester, where Sara Knight and others were working hard to provide Worcester with a theatre, after the demolition of the Theatre Royal. Their efforts were crowned with success when the Swan Theatre opened in 1965. It seemed to the Great Witley Operatic Society that this new, small theatre would be ideal for promoting their shows before the lucrative market of Worcester audiences; and this was possible because the leading local society, the Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society, had only recently moved fully into presenting modern Musical shows instead of Gilbert & Sullivan, leaving a convenient opening for a society which wished to present the Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
And so the Great Witley Operatic Society came to the Swan Theatre, and began this long and happy association with The Mikado in 1966. The first twenty-two shows produced at the Swan, until 1989, were all chosen from the Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Since 1990, there have been nineteen Savoy Operas, five Viennese and French Operettas and two American Musicals and two Operas. GWOS is proud to share with WODS, the honour of having performed at the Swan Theatre, Worcester throughout it’s 70 year history.