Simon Gallaher's beginnings in Gilbert & Sullivan

Like many children, Gallaher was introduced to Gilbert & Sullivan at school. His parents had recordings of D'Oyly Carte productions of various operettas but it was his all-boys public school which had a tradition of staging an annual Gilbert & Sullivan. In 1971 when Gallaher was twelve he started his first year of high school at the Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) in Brisbane Australia. The G&S production scheduled for that year was ironically The Pirates of Penzance.
Gallaher had a vast and impressive early childhood of choral music and piano tuition but had never ventured onto a theatrical stage. He was coaxed by newly found school friends to audition for the show as they all were keen to be in the chorus together. These were the days at all-boys schools when the younger boys with unbroken voices played the female roles.

Gallaher auditioned and much to the surprise of his friends was not in the chorus but cast as one of Major General Stanley's main daughters KATE.

(Gallaher pictured far right)

The head of the music department at the school (David Macfarlane) was also the artistic director and founder of the city's foremost operatic society (The Queensland Light Opera Company). They had staged Gilbert and Sullivan operetta since the early sixties and were currently staging a production of The Pirates at their little theatre The Music Box. David's assistant at the school (Bill Leahr) was also involved with the QLOC as an actor as well as music and chorus master. Gallaher was therefore in secure and reputable hands in these formative years and grew to love all the works of Gilbert & Sullivan. In 1972 he played KATISHA in the school production of The Mikado. The school then ventured away from their G&S tradition in '73 & '74 however it was still a boys-only community. This saw Gallaher involved with productions of Oliver! and Oklahoma! In Gallaher's final year of school they returned to their G&S repertoire and staged The Gondoliers with Gallaher in the male lead as MARCO. By now he had acquired and developed a promising tenor voice which led him in the following year to study a full time music degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
In Simon's first year of full time music study, he was keen to pursue his theatrical exploits and was by now a member of the QLOC playing in the chorus of The Merry Widow and The Mikado in that year as well as understudying the lead tenor roles. (That production of Mikado featured Bev Shean as KATISHA who years later was cast by Gallaher to play the role in his productions in Australia and New Zealand.) The newly built Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane had an impressive theatre which was not yet utilised for any form of theatrical presentation and used only for concert recital work. He approached the conservatorium director and received permission to stage a production of Trial by Jury. The presentation was entitled "An Evening of Gilbert & Sullivan" which featured concert highlights of various G&S operettas in the first half (semi-staged and costumed); and a staged version of Trial By Jury in the second. Gallaher played THE DEFENDANT. Gallaher produced and directed the entire performance; sold the tickets; printed the posters, recruited his friends from the QLOC to play parts that could not be cast from within the conservatorium and borrowed all the sets and costumes from the QLOC store.

Gallaher was inspired by the success and excitement of coordinating such a venture and set to writing an adaption of The Mikado (his second). (His first was a rock version he wrote at sixteen). However the conservatorium decided that a staging of this would be a distraction from usual studies.
Gallaher's second year of tertiary music studies was interspersed with a job at night in a local Brisbane piano bar. The Globetrotter's Bar at the Crest Hotel. As well as this he was now entrenched with the activities of the QLOC which was by now staging major productions in the city's foremost Her Majesty's Theatre. He again understudied the tenor leads in The Gondoliers and Iolanthe in 1977. In 1978 Gallaher's work load at the conservatorium stretched to educational subjects as he was training to be a school musical specialist. Together with his piano bar gig, he was unable to involve himself further with QLOC. His fortunes then made a turn in a new direction as he recorded one of his own compositions at the conservatorium's recording studio and sent it to a song contest being held by the popular daytime variety program The Mike Walsh Show. His song was selected in the final seven to be performed and broadcast, and Gallaher boldly requested that he perform the song himself.

Gallaher appeared on national television and the public immediately took to this young fresh faced piano-playing singer. He was immediately signed by Polygram Records and his performing career was launched. In 1978 he completed his third year at the conservatorium but then requested a deferral of studies which was granted. Gallaher left his classical training, his piano bar gig and the amateur G&S theatrical society. By 1983 Gallaher was an established recording & TV star who was invited to play FREDERIC in the Joseph Papp Broadway version of The Pirates of Penzance in Australia. The first attempt to mount the production was disbanded only to be resurrected twelve months later to become the inaugural Victorian Arts Centre's summer musical.
When The Pirates was such a resounding success, Gallaher set about writing new adaptations to other Gilbert & Sullivan works as he had analysed the relatively simplistic way in which the Joseph Papp version had been 'updated' and reorchestrated. He approached the producers of Pirates with the concept of recreating other operettas in the same manner. He submitted a version of The Gondoliers and one of Iolanthe but was unsuccessful in garnering any interest. It was to be another ten years before Gallaher's G&S trilogy would become a reality.

See the history of The Pirates of Penzance