How four Stratford musicians came to perform in Twelfth Night, 1957.

"If music be the food of love, play on..."

This story of how four noted Stratford musicians/music teachers became involved with Twelfth Night in 1957 takes place over three years and involves Tyrone Guthrie, Stratford Festival Artistic Director (Guthrie Avenue), Gordon Scott (John Street), Audrey Conroy (Water Street), Campbell Trowsdale (William Street), and Ed Oscapella ( Nile Street).

Musicians: L-R. Gordon Scott, Cam Trowsdale, Ed Oscapella, Audrey Conroy in Twelfth Night, In the foreground, Lloyd Bochner as Orsino and Siobhan Mckenna as Viola. Photo by Peter Smith, Stratford Festival Archives.

Cam Trowsdale

Gordon Scott

Audrey Conroy

Ed Oscapella

The story started in the summer of 1954. Tyrone Guthrie first heard The Elizabethan Singers of Stratford, led by Gordon Scott, when they performed their sold-out concerts in the Festival Theatre that summer. Guthrie was so impressed he wanted them in his next production. That turned out to be The Merchant of Venice in 1955. And what Guthrie wanted, he got. And he wanted all of The Elizabethans, not just some of them.

Choir Boys: Back: Gord Conroy, Paul Wilker, Richard Furhman, LLoyd Monteith, Front: Hugh McCaul, Kenneth Boyes, Donald McPherson , David Quirt

After The Elizabethan Singers had been in The Merchant of Venice as court musicians to Portia,(see Portia Blvd.) Gordon Scott, their leader, continued to be involved with the Stratford Festival. In 1956, he arranged for a group of boy sopranos that he taught and trained to be singing school boys in the production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

They also played wood sprites who were part of the plot hatched by the “merry wives” to taunt Falstaff. This production was directed by Michael Langham who succeeded Guthrie as Artistic Director. He had been told by Guthrie that Gordon Scott was the man to deal with in matters of vocal music from Stratford. That group of boys included both Paul Wilker and Gord Conroy who did the research for this project, the Streets of Stratford and also included Donald McPherson who became a world champion figure skater (see Queen Street).

The Bean: Wood Sprites were all dressed as vegetables.

When Guthrie came back to direct Twelfth Night in 1957, he wanted The Elizabethan Singers again. However, they were not all available. Guthrie also wanted a different look in Twelfth Night from the elegant, gowned household musicians to Portia that The Elizabethans had portrayed just two years before. Guthrie decided on ragged street musicians. He thought that they would contrast to the elegant court rather than repeat the more elegant court singer/musician idea from Merchant.

Guthrie called Gordon Scott, the leader of The Elizabethans who was also Organist/Choir Master at St. John’s United Church. Gordon led a Junior Choir of 40 plus voices that won awards at Music Festivals in Toronto and throughout Sothern Ontario. He had recruited and trained the boy sopranos for Merry Wives in 1956. Guthrie held Gordon in high esteem, and when Gordon agreed to lead and be one of the street musicians, he was also tasked with recruiting three others.

Gordon called Audrey Conroy, pianist, piano teacher and fellow Elizabethan Singer member, to join him. She called Cam Trowsdale, violin, who was studying advanced music at the University of Toronto but who still called Stratford home. Finally, Ed Oscapella, music teacher and viola player, was also invited.

Gord Conroy remembers rehearsals at his home: Audrey, Gordon and Ed had to learn to play recorders. The new recorders they bought were stripped down by the Festival props department to remove their shine. Audrey played soprano and alto; Gordon was tenor, Ed was bass. Cam played alternately violin or drum in the scenes for the street musicians.

Gord, Audrey's son, remembers it was a hoot to listen to them rehearse. The breath control and fingering for half stops to made sharps and flats and the whole technique of playing up an octave or down was not easy to learn. And if they made a mistake and laughed into the recorder, the sound shrieked up an octave...and they laughed more. Lots of laughter and learning usually at Audrey’s home on Water Street. Cam played the drum in one scene and the violin in another though Gord seems to remember that he plucked the violin rather than bowing it.

John Cook 1962

John Cook wrote original music for the play. He was resident conductor and composer for the Stratford Festival for nine years until 1962. In 1957, Cook lived in London Ontario and was a friend of Guthrie’s from England. The recorder music he created was incidental music without words and was featured in the scenes in Duke Orsino’s Court including the scene that contains the famous opening speech..."If music be the food of love, play on..." But Cook also wrote new music for Bruno Gerussi as Feste, for his songs in the play. They included “O Mistress Mine,” “Come Away Death, and the final song that concludes the play,( click to hear) “The rain it raineth every day.” Gordon Scott was the vocal coach for Gerussi as well as the key musician and contact for Guthrie. Source: Gord Conroy

Twelfth Night 1957 LLoyd Bochner (Duke Orsino), Siobhan McKenna (Viola), Bruno Gerussi (Feste), Friend of Orsino, Street Musicians. Gordon Scott (standing), Ed Oscapella ( seated), Cam Trowsdale (with drum), Audrey Conroy (facing inward). Photo by Peter Smith, Stratford Festival Archives.