The second world war brought a temporary halt to the proceedings and it wasn’t until 1951 that the citizens of Chesham next heard the strains of G & S. The town council invited Maurice Barnes to reform the group and to stage a show for the Festival of Britain, so with a new name, Chesham Amateur Operatic Society, the Company performed The Gondoliers once again. Many of the pre-war stalwarts rejoined the group, including Doris Barnes, who, during a particularly vigorous rendition of the Act II Cachucha dance, watched as her shoe went flying dangerously out over the audience in the Embassy Cinema.
Three years later history repeated itself when modern technology (wide-screen Cinemascope) forced us to find other accommodation. The Embassy, located opposite the Bucks Examiner offices in Germain Street, was finally demolished to make way for a block of flats. After performing a concert in the Church Rooms in Church Street, we moved back to the Co-op Hall, and stayed there for the following four years.

In 1954, while rehearsing Merrie England, Maurice Barnes was taken ill and had to retire. His place as Musical Director was taken by Harold Green who was another stalwart from the pre-war days. He had started in 1924, starring as the Defendant in Trial by Jury at the tender age of 17. He went on to sing the romantic leads for many years; his beautifully pure tenor voice was said to be a joy to listen to. Under Harold’s baton the Company continued, first with G&S, then mixing the Savoy Operas with operettas such as Gipsy Baron, Sweethearts, and Orpheus in the Underworld, a variety which led to another change of name, in 1968, to Chesham Light Opera Company.
In 1960 the new girls’ school in Chartridge Lane beckoned, and for the next eight years our singers battled against the reverberant acoustics of Lowndes Secondary School (now Chesham Park Community College).
When the Cestreham Boys School opened in the mid 1960s it clearly offered us some improved facilities – larger auditorium; bigger stage; larger dressing rooms; and best of all better acoustics, so in 1968 we moved our home to the school that is now the Chesham Campus of the Amersham and Wycombe College. Our last show there was White Horse Inn and for many years our painted back-drop of Austrian mountains remained on the back wall of the stage. Painted by John Young, it was described in one newspaper as being ‘like a chocolate box’.
When Chesham finally opened its own purpose built theatre, the Elgiva Hall, in 1976, we were the first company to test its effectiveness by staging a lesser known Gilbert and Sullivan opera - The Sorcerer. Although better than the school halls of the past, we soon found the new theatre’s limitations – poorly designed orchestra pit; lack of stage wing space; inadequate dressing rooms; not to mention an uninviting foyer leading our patrons towards some extremely uncomfortable seats!
With the arrival of The Elgiva, the Company began to spread further into more modern musicals, starting with a memorable Fiddler on the Roof (1977), a brilliant personal triumph for James Suich as Tevye. From then on My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, The Pajama Game, Annie Get Your Gun etc. mixed with occasional returns to G&S and operetta became our annual fare. Regular autumn productions, such as Tarantara! Tarantara!, Free As Air and our ever popular Old Time Music Hall, kept the Company together virtually all year.
Since 1999 our home has been the New Elgiva Theatre. This larger venue was built for the Town by a supermarket to make way for a bigger store and car-park, it certainly offers us opportunities to present some grander productions, such as our 2003 offering - Oklahoma!
Where will we be when we celebrate our 90th birthday? Who can tell, I can’t, I’m only the historian of the group!
Geoff Hale December 2002