The Knaphill and St Johns Operatic Group

The Knaphill and St Johns Operatic Group (KASJOG) started life as an Adult Education evening class at The Winston Churchill School in St Johns in 1968. Their first (and favourite) production was Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial By Jury.

In 1994 after separating from Adult Education, KASJOG became a registered charity which coincided with a decision to move to the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking giving them a huge step-up in terms of the scope of technical and production opportunities. It was also decided that the repertoire would extend to include light opera and so a process of alternating Gilbert & Sullivan’s works with operas such as Die Fledermaus, Orpheus in the Underworld and The Merry Widow (which was to be their first production at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre) began.

KASJOG’s mantra is “to entertain in as professional a manner as possible, but to have fun at the same time.” Each show brings its own possibilities and challenges and there is no shortage of anecdotes about missed entrances, forgotten lines, misplaced props, un-cooperative scenery and high jinks in the lighting box. However, the cast and crew are always ready to accept a challenge and the biggest of these so far has been their production of Carmen for which they won a coveted NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) Award of Excellence.

Another challenging production was KASJOG’S  first musical, Brigadoon, which required Scottish and American accents, a sword dance and 11 scene changes in two acts.

Getting ready for curtain up in the March 2019 production of The Merry Widow.  
And taking a bow.

‘ “Kasjoggers” come from all walks of life and cover a wide age range.’ KASJOGs publicity officer, Hilary Witts told The Knaphillian. ‘We are like one big happy family, with all the differing personalities and characters you would expect, with the one thing in common: a love of singing and dressing up in funny clothes, putting on makeup and dancing about the place, not to mention going to the pub afterwards or sharing a joke, a cup of tea and a biscuit during a break in rehearsals!’

From September to March rehearsals take place for each production and sometimes during the summer, there are one-day drama and singing workshops which are very popular. Hilary says there is a dual purpose to this: refreshing technique amongst existing members and encouraging new faces to have a taste of what life is like with KASJOG. There is also the opportunity of singing excerpts from the next show which helps to whet the appetite of prospective participants.

The can-can girls at Maxim’s (March 2019 production of The Merry Widow).

KASJOG rehearse at the Maybury Centre in Woking on Mondays and Thursdays at 8pm. Membership is not confined to residents of Knaphill and St Johns;  some of the cast come from other towns and villages in Surrey.

From April on the first Monday of each month, members can be found at The Crown pub in Horsell, keeping their ‘spirits’ up until the next production begins rehearsal at the beginning of September.

You may not know it but: KASJOG is for hire!

They enjoy performing as a group in between their annual productions at weddings, dinners and other celebrations.

KASJOG members entertaining at a private garden party.

Private concerts include:

  • An Evening with Gilbert & Sullivan
  • A Viennese Evening
  • An Old Time Music Hall
  • A Musical Story tracing the development of the modern musical
  • Strike Up and Beguine featuring the music of Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

‘Our varied repertoire are staged concerts with plenty of action’ Hilary told The Knaphillian. ‘We charge a fixed fee, so all you have to do is sit back and let your guests enjoy the performance or you can sell your own tickets.’

See our website for details:  www.kasjog.org.uk

The Knaphillian caught up with Hilary to ask her a little more about the group and about dressing up in funny clothes, putting on makeup and dancing!

The Knaphillian (TK): Hi Hilary – we are delighted to hear there is such a talented group of performers on our doorstep and pleased to learn a little more about you all. When and where did your group start?

Hilary: Our group was started in 1968 by the then Director of Music at The Winston Churchill School Mrs Margaret Hennessey-Brown, who wanted to give members of her choir who were leaving, the opportunity to stay together. After several years of putting on productions at the school, we moved to the Rhoda McGaw Theatre and took on the challenge of performing in a fully equipped theatre.

(TK): How many productions do you do a year?
Hilary: We perform an annual production of light opera (eg The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, etc) and Gilbert & Sullivan. We also are available for hire at weddings, celebrations and other functions.

(TK): Tell us more about the team involved and their roles within your group.
Hilary: Our backstage team are our most valuable asset  as they provide all the technical support that mounting a full-scale production requires: stage management, lighting and sound, backstage crew (scenery changes, etc), costumes, box office, props, make-up, photography/video and of course stage and musical directors. We also have a publicity team as well as refreshments and front of house teams who look after our audiences. The Dowding family – Brian and Sylvia – who are longstanding residents of Knaphill, and their sons James and Jeremy, provide the backbone of our production team.

KASJOG stage crew (back row, left to right): Lisa Waugh, Matt Wells, Allan Wright, Chris Ireland, Ian Bird. 
(Front row, left to right): Sylvia Dowding, Janine Gielbert.

(TK): What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Hilary: Our 2001 production of Bizet’s Carmen, for which we won a NODA (The National Operatic and Dramatic Association) award. We have won awards for some of our other productions from NODA as well.

(TK): What are your plans  for the future?
Hilary: To keep entertaining Woking audiences with interesting, high quality productions.

(TK): Are you looking for other members or volunteers?
Hilary: We always welcome help backstage (our production manager would love to retire!) and also singers of all voice parts (particularly men and younger people). There are no auditions for chorus members but obviously, the ability to hold a tune is essential.

(TK): Anything else you’d like to add?
Hilary: Only that we are a friendly, inclusive group who rehearse at The Maybury Centre in Woking on Monday and Thursday evenings from September to March, with productions at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre.  Come and join us!

To join or get involved:
The Knaphill and St John’s Operatic Group offer four types of annual membership:
On Stage membership includes all rehearsal, production and costume costs. They are always keen to welcome new members.
Student On Stage membership covers students in full time education.
Associate membership is available to all “resting” or ex-members who would like to keep up to date with social events, concerts, future productions and good old-fashioned KASJOG gossip.
Become a Patron and you will be entitled to a free ticket each year for the main production, and your name will appear in the programme.

… or just join the mailing list:

An easy way to be kept informed about KASJOGs main annual production is to be on their mailing list, which enables early booking of tickets. Visit the website for further details: www.kasjog.org.uk

£££ ANNUAL COSTS £££
On Stage    £110.00 (you can pay in 1 or 2 instalments)
Student        £50.00 (available for students in full-time education)
Associate     £25.00
Patron         £50.00

To request or download a membership application form, please visit the website for further details: www.kasjog.org.uk

The next production.
After a very successful run of The Merry Widow, KASJOG are pleased to announce that the show for 2020 is:

PATIENCE
(or Bunthorne’s Bride)
by WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, The Ambassadors, Victoria Way, Woking, Surrey GU21 6GQ.

from 4th – 7th March 2020.

Stage Director: Val Hitchcock
Musical Director: David Chapman

Rehearsals start on Monday 2nd September 2019 at 8pm at The Maybury Centre, Board School Road, Woking. ‘At the first rehearsal and again on Thursday 5th and Monday 9th September we sing through the music and audition pieces to get a feel for the show. PRINCIPAL AUDITIONS will be held on Thursday 12th September at 8pm. Those unable to make the Thursday can audition on Monday the 9th by arrangement with the Director, Val’ KASJOG advise.

A synopsis of the show, audition notes and audition form can be downloaded here.

Audition Form 2020

KASJOG is a member of:
Woking Drama Association
NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)           
KASJOG is a Registered Charity: Charity Number 1047524

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