Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Helga's & Bruce's joint announcement outlined the basic facts about the "lost song" from H.M.S. PINAFORE, "Reflect, my child," that they have discovered. I would add some "reflections" of my own.

There are very few substantial musical passages from the Savoy Operas that remain, conceivably, to be discovered. Aside from practically the whole of THESPIS, there are just a few more numbers that we may hope eventually to find. It is also possible that no more will ever be found.

This is, in other words, a special occasion, particularly given the importance of H.M.S. PINAFORE in the history of Gilbert and Sullivan. I would even say, without at all detracting from our debt to Selwyn Tillett and Roderick Spencer, that this discovery trumps that of the THESPIS ballet earlier this decade.

I doubt that very many listeners will judge "Reflect, my child" to be one of Gilbert & Sullivan's finer creations. Some of the music's unusual harmonic elements elevate it above the merely mundane, but it does not seem consistently inspired (even allowing, as we must, that Bruce and Helga have only guessed at the melodic line). Perhaps even more significant, Gilbert's verses seem labored and preachy. Beyond these concerns, one may reasonably doubt whether the score wants a slow drawing-room ballad at this juncture of the plot's development.

Still, any lost number from the Savoy Operas is of great interest. We learn as much from what Gilbert and Sullivan chose to omit, as from what they chose to retain. Bruce's & Helga's careful and sensitive reconstruction gives us a window into our heroes' creative process. And, despite my reservations about the song's suitability, I have to admit that it has grown on me. In time, I hope to see it in a full production of PINAFORE, so that we can experience what it would have been like had the number not been cut.

It's a pity that such news cannot be spread at web-speed. The discovery was made last summer, and it will not be till this coming summer (at Buxton) that it will finally be heard in public with the original orchestration (or, as close to the original as we are likely to get). I urge as many of you as possible to attend Bruce's & Helga's presentation this summer at Buxton. Besides hearing a heretofore unknown number from H.M.S. PINAFORE, you'll be treated to a fascinating G&S detective story.

Marc Shepherd

  Page created 18 April 1999