ONE of the North-East’s leading amateur music societies has announced that it remains in robust shape despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Darlington Operatic Society held a virtual annual general meeting and reported that it has emerged from the past year as financially viable after embracing a host of opportunities during lockdown.

The award-winning Society, known for its high-class shows at Darlington Hippodrome, had spent months rehearsing for Strictly Musicals 3 when the first national lockdown was announced five weeks before opening night.

Having just moved into a purpose-built rehearsal venue, all income streams were cut off overnight, but members worked together to stage a number of virtual events to raise funds and maintain morale.

Chairman Julian Cound said: “Having been involved with Darlington Operatic Society for the last 15 years, I was confident that the company would remain positive and see out the difficulties of the last 12 months.

“The Board of Trustees have worked together to ensure the company remained financially viable, and the membership have turned their hands to all sorts of new opportunities to ensure theatre in the North-East remained vibrant, relevant and engaging.”

A huge fundraising drive was launched shortly after lockdown began, and a remarkable £3,000 was donated from people who had booked tickets for Strictly Musical 3.

All meetings were moved onto Zoom, as well as social events, including a race night, quiz nights, bake-off, and dance workshops.

Virtual video performances were meticulously arranged, with One Day More and From Now On attracting 28,000 and 18,000 views respectively.

A Strictly Lockdown CD was produced in support of the NHS, and the Society’s costume team also made face masks to sell to members and their friends, raising more than £700.

Other highlights of the year included the Society being declared winners of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) best production award for Jekyll and Hyde, staged in autumn 2019. The Society also became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) at an extraordinary general meeting.

At this year’s AGM, Julian Cound was re-elected as chairman, Sarah Singleton was re-elected vice-chairman, and Peter Barron was re-elected as President. Hannah Winship, Julian Cound and Peter Robson were voted in as Trustees for a three-year period.

Fran Hague was presented with the Joy Beadell Trophy for her voluntary work cleaning the rehearsal venue to keep it Covid-secure, as well as the sterling work as a care worker in her ‘day job’. Linda Sams was awarded the Greta Sanderson Award for her excellence in the role of Covid Officer.

The Society is now gearing up for a “Come Back Home” concert at Darlington Hippodrome in June, and then the rescheduled Strictly Musicals 3 in October.