Written by our musical director; Geoff Page
Almost 50 years ago, as a founder member of BYO (Baldock Youth Organisation), I played piano for my first show. BYO was formed when the four church youth clubs (Congregational, Methodist, Catholic and Anglican) attended a meeting (I can’t recall what the purpose of the meeting was!). It was the first time the four church youth groups had met and it seemed a good opportunity to talk about getting together. So after much discussion, it was decided to form a new group for those who were interested from the four youth clubs, this new group we named “Baldock Youth Organisation” (BYO), a further meeting for the newly formed group was arranged to decide what we could do for the town (chaired by Terry Gray)
We would organise working parties to do jobs for the town’s elderly, eg gardening, decorating, etc
We decided (as we had a pianist!) to put on a concert for the town’s over 60’s which we staged at the Secondary school hall (now Knights Templar)
The show was successful, so we decided to stage the same show for the public the following April. This we did for 3 or 4 years until BYO membership started to decline, some members emigrating, some going to Uni, and some, like me, getting too old to be a youth!
Around 1969, a few members of BYO joined forces with “The Happy Players”, a fairly small group who were putting on entertainment at homes for the elderly in the area. The BYO members eventually ceased to. As the Happy Players grew, we were soon putting on productions similar to today’s at venue’s such as Hitchin Town Hall with Keith Watson as compare. A talented guy! We were also putting on small shows at village halls, homes for the elderly, etc. Some of the piano’s I encountered were unplayable (no keyboard in those days!) so I carried a guitar with me to strum if the piano was bad. In one December we had a small show nearly every night, with two on a Saturday! I think we did 24 that month, madness! Around 1980, for various reasons, the Happy Players folded, so a few of us held a meeting in a pub, again chaired by Terry, to propose starting up a new group, I said… how about “Variety Express”…? Most of you will know the history of VE… And here we are! Since the start of VE there have been a few changes, the format of the show had to change after Keith Watson left, and did so successfully into our present format.
What else have I played for?
Hitchin Pantomime Company (early 190’s)
The Maguire Singers (a madrigal group, early 1970’s)
North Herts Variety Players (a short lived group)
St John’s School, Baldock. Panto (with Chris Page on drums)
Baldock Congregational Church (now Baldock United Reformed Church) Sunday school pianist (from age 13) and on the rota of organists (for services, weddings, funerals) until around 1982.
Buffs Christmas carol concert (1982 – 2012)
Baldock Theatre Group (with Pete Dawson/Chris Page on drums)
Baldock Catholic Church - Occasional weddings/funerals
K&L Sports and Social group (50 years ago!)
Herts Variety (still going strong today) with Chris Page on drums
Plus one or two I’ve probably forgotten
Terry Gray estimates that over the last 50 years, the groups have staged around 1000 shows large and small!
Instruments I have used
In the early days – piano, some good, some bad! I build my first organ in 1982 and used it for a couple of years – it sounded awful! I bbought two further portable organs with base pedalboards which I used at the start of Variety Express… Pedalboards are hard word!
I started using Yamaha keyboards around 23 years ago. The one I use now was given to me by Steve Bavister, I also have one given to me by Carol Nash which I use in my garden studio, they are superb instruments.
A final thought from me…
I would never have dreamed 50 years ago that 50 years on I would still be doing this!
See ya next year!
Musical Director – Variety Express
The original Variety Express band, Dave Ewans, Geoff Page and Chris Page on mini drums!