Wandering Minstrels



For well over a century, Gilbert and Sullivan have been syonymous with a perfect blend of good humour and good tunes - satirical fun in an operatic setting.

In this three-part series, Geoffrey Smith investigates some of the ways the composer responded to the librettist, building on and sometimes parodying music from Purcell and Handel to Verdi and Wagner.

The first programme examines Sullivan's use of operatic imitations.


In his second programme investigating the music behind the Savoy operas, Geoffrey Smith uncovers the pieces Gilbert and Sullivan poked fun at.

He looks at Handel parodies in `Princess Ida', spoofs of Verdi and Gounod in `The Pirates of Penzance', and at `The Mikado', in which just about everything is sent up.

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Geoffrey Smith concludes his Savoy opera series with music by Gilbert and Sullivan inspired by Wagner, Verdi, English folk songs and Italian patter songs.


Sarah Walker uncovers the forgotten story of one of the best known orchestras in Britain in the late 1800s: The Wandering Minstrels - a bunch of aristocrats and middle-class dilettantes who claimed to be the only purely amateur orchestra in Europe. They gave the first ever concert in the Royal Albert Hall, they raised the equivalent of millions of pounds for charity through their performances - and they really put the professionals' backs up.

And if their name seems familiar, you're probably thinking of the Gilbert & Sullivan song 'A wandering minstrel I' from The Mikado. No, the orchestra didn't name themselves after the song: the song was a tongue-in-cheek homage to the then-famous orchestra. Sullivan was good mates with the orchestra's founder, Seymour Egerton (later the Fourth Earl of Wilton), and Nanki-Poo, who sings the song, is - like the orchestra's players - a member of the nobility roughing it as an itinerant musician.

First broadcast in August 2012.

The story of the orchestra who gave the first ever concert at the Royal Albert Hall.