Why re-orchestrate the G&S Operettas?

The problem faced by MDs performing music in small theatres is that they often lack the space (and often the budget) needed for the full orchestral support and accompaniment that Sullivan had the luxury of using. So what does an MD leave out? For many the choice is between trying to cope with the standard parts and asking the players to cover the missing instruments, or using an existing reduction that doesn't provide the complete range of orchestral texture and colour. Neither option is entirely satisfactory, so I decided to create my own. 


The new versions


In my arrangement, I have concentrated on preserving the essential flavour of the original orchestration while reducing the number of instruments to more manageable proportions for amateur groups in smaller theatres. At least one of each instrument in the wind and brass has been used to provide the widest range of colour. However, for The Yeomen of the Guard, an extra horn has been included to provide much needed support for the reduced brass section and because this instrument’s softer timbre can also double for some of the woodwind writing. The strings stay much as they are in the original but in some cases, their music has been divided differently to accommodate fewer players. 


The re-orchestration process


The process of creating a new version starts by copying the entire score into Sibelius, cross referencing vocal scores and listening carefully to the software 'play-back' what has been written to correct mistakes. Following this, each number is studied and parts re-arranged where necessary (e.g. giving trombone parts to the horns when the horns are 'free') to accommodate the smaller forces. Finally, with a revised score Sibelius is able to 'extract parts' to create individual part books for each instrument. These are then printed on heavy weight paper using a professional laser printer.

About Philip Joslin - Orchestrator, Conductor and Singer


After successfully completing a BA Hons. in Music at Bristol University where I also conducted the Chamber Orchestra, the Opera Society in works by G&S, Kurt Weill and myself, I moved back to the London area. Since then, I have conducted many of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon with local amateur societies.


I was nominated for 'Best Musical Director' at the Buxton International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival for my work with Abbots Langley Gilbert and Sullivan society for their production of Iolanthe (2004). 


Having played Principal French Horn with the Reading and Berkshire Youth Orchestras, and then with the Bristol University Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, I have a large and varied experience of orchestral writing. I was fortunate enough to play works such as Holst's Planets Suite, Stravinsky's Firebird, Petruchka and The Rite of Spring ballet music amongst many other classical and romantic era works. 


I have written and arranged many choral pieces for amateur groups and have conducted major works including Mozart's Requiem, Bach's St John Passion and Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I have also taken parts in a number of the G&S operettas on stage, including 'Fairfax' for Pinner and Hatch End Operatic Society Musical Players at Watersmeet Theatre Rickmansworth and 'Tolloler' with Andrew Shore (ENO) in Pinner as well as Lieut. The Duke of Dunstable with ALGSS.


I am also a regular guest conductor for Grims Dyke Opera Company. 

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