ESPA is an amalgamation of The East Surrey Operatic Society and The Opera Club of Reigate and Redhill and was formed when the two Societies merged in early 2014.
Today we are putting on two main Productions each year at the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill with our youth section – YESPA – putting on a production every summer at the same Theatre.
On top of that we have started to produce Drama and we continue to perform Concerts and Carol Concerts whenever possible. However – you need to go back the beginning to understand who we are today.
The East Surrey Operatic Society (ESOS) was formed in 1907 and performed The Mikado in that same year at the Market Hall in Redhill which was to become their home until its demolition in the early 1980’s. ESOS continued to perform every year – bar the War years – concentrating on Gilbert and Sullivan productions and the like. However in the 1950’s ESOS started to embrace a different kind of show and soon the “American Musical” became the staple fare for the Society. This was a departure from their usual repertoire and was not popular with all of the membership who still wanted to perform the more traditional Operatic Shows and this resulted in a breakaway group forming under the guidance of Joyce Hooper.
And so The Opera Club of Reigate and Redhill was formed and the two Societies worked side by side but completely separately with ESOS generally performing more modern fare and The Opera Club continuing to perform Gilbert and Sullivan.
Given the history these two successful Societies each performed one main Show each year and everything ran smoothly with first of all the Market Hall and subsequently The Harlequin Theatre giving them both a professional Theatre to work in.
As time passed though the two memberships became more entwined and a large proportion of each were actually members of both groups.
The Opera Club then started to perform shows which were very similar to ESOS and given that the two Societies had started working together on Charity Concerts, Concert’s and even a complete Show (Scrooge in 2009) it was almost inevitable that at some point they would get together on a permanent basis and this happened in 2014 when ESOSOC was formed.
One of the most rewarding aspects of all of this though was the formation of Young ESOS in 2003. ESOS felt that encouraging young people to take part in Musical Theatre was important for them but in turn might also benefit the Society moving forward. I was a great decision and YESOS was created and they performed their first Show – “HONK” - in 2004 and have gone on to be one of the most successful and innovative young groups in the south East of England.
So from way back in 1907 to today the aim has always been the same – to give our members the opportunity to perform and to give our audiences enjoyment and we will strive to make sure that we continue to do so.