Chimes Musical Theatre was created by Cassie Tillett in 1987, and performed forty-eight concerts over the next twenty years. The first concert was called Just a song at teatime - an afternoon of parlour-song entertainment (see above). It was presented as part of a day of music at Bourne Hall in Ewell in aid of the British Epilepsy Association, and was in memory of a friend of Cassies who had died as a result of her epilepsy. This set the scene for all future concerts: fund-raisers for various charities, bringing high-quality music to our audiences and enjoyment to our performers, introducing the latter to new repertoire and sharing our joyful music-making.
The group were asked to provide a concert about a year later as a fund-raising event for Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Church in Tolworth; and the rest, as they say, is history. Cassie continued to arrange musical entertainments for charitable causes, and an increasing number of her theatrical and musical colleagues were recruited to take part. After her marriage to Selwyn Tillett in 1995, his considerable knowledge and expertise, both as an accompanist and as a music historian, meant that their work together with the group became one of their favourite and most important activities.
The spectrum of musical styles increased with the various performers, and ranged from opera to operetta, from music hall to musical comedy, from parlour-song to pantomime; casts ranged from three performers to twelve, and audiences from the Sutton Deanery Clergy Wives to the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society including transatlantic visitors! The charities for which we raised funds ranged from the Cot Death Foundation to Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, from St Peter & St James Hospice to the Vauxhall Four Peaks Challenge, from stately home restoration to an assortment of church building funds.
The singers were generally colleagues from choirs and operatic societies, many of whom were professional musicians; but whether they earned their living from music or not, they freely gave their time and considerable talents generally for no more than the bribery of food, drink and socialising. We were proud to work with performers who have otherwise graced the stages of Glyndebourne, the English National Opera and the Royal Albert Hall (to name but a few), but who have been happy to work in churches, halls and stately homes, raising funds for charities.
The name Chimes had no particular significance when it was chosen, except that it was reminiscent of pleasant-sounding music. Audience reactions over the years confirmed that this was the right name to choose!
Cassie & Selwyn relocated from South London to Norfolk in 2005, and it soon became clear that our days as Chimes were over. The key to our success had been the relative ease of gathering: based largely around London, it was not too difficult to bring together available cast members to rehearse at the Rectory in Beddington, ensuring a high quality of performance. No fees or expenses were requested or paid; in almost all cases, every penny of profit went to the charities for whom we performed. When the main organisers moved to East Anglia, those wonderful days of social gatherings, rehearsals based around a vat of chilli and a wine box, of sharing and ideas, became too impractical. We were thrilled to welcome some of our members to Norfolk to perform two final concerts in 2006 and 2007, and, last of all, we gathered together at St Mary's Church in Beddington for our twentieth anniversary concert in 2007; but as a group, we knew that our twentieth anniversary would be our last.
However, we stay in touch with our musical friends; we have loved to welcome them to Norfolk, and to visit them whenever we are able. We have found new musical friends in the Norwich area, and are gradually building a new network who can help us to provide, once more, entertainments of all kinds, and some of the Chimes team have joined us in those concerts. Visit the website of Vocal Score for more information.
It remains one of the most important achievements for us both, and this small website is here as a commemoration of some of the happiest times we have spent on stage.
If you were part of these happy times, have photos or recordings to share, or would simply like to be back in touch, please visit Cassie's business contact page for details.