Pianist Mike Elden is retiring after 37 years with Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society – but he is leaving on a high note, having played in 61 shows for WODS at both the city’s Swan Theatre and Malvern Festival Theatre.

He has also been the rehearsal pianist at WODS home – St Mary’s Hall, Northfield Street, Worcester, for 24 years – notching up a total of 48 productions – and received a National Operatic and Dramatic Association commendation in 2004 marking 21 years’ service.

Mike, aged 67, comes from a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire and attended Ecclesfield Grammar School. He studied music at The Royal College of Music and trained as a teacher at Bretton Hall.

He said: “I taught music in secondary education in Shropshire for 22 years before changing to self-employment as an accompanist on the piano and organ.

“I first became involved with WODS in 1983 when the spring show was Salad Days. Two pianos are required in this show and I was engaged to play one of them. Thirty-seven years have passed since then and I’ve played in 61 shows at both The Swan, Worcester, and Malvern Festival Theatre. My favourite I guess would be the 2011 production of A Chorus Line, closely followed by the 2014 Guys and Dolls. I’ve been rehearsal pianist at WODS hall for 24 years/48 productions.”

As well as WODS, Mike, who lives in Whittington with Rob, his partner of 38 years, has played in the orchestra for Pershore Operatic Society since 2001, and WODYS since 2006. He has been the accompanist at Kidderminster Choral Society since 1981 and other work has included accompaniment for the Wyre Forest Young Voices from 1997-2015, accompaniment for ballet and tap exams at several dance schools, recitals and exams with singers and instrumentalists and playing the organ for church services, weddings and funerals.

As well as the piano and organ he plays the flute, guitar and accordion.

He said: “Over these years with WODS I’ve got to know so many people and made good friends. I look forward to remaining a patron, going to shows and keeping in touch.

Ann Hasnip, WODS president said: “Just over 37 years ago, a wonderful young pianist named Mike Elden joined our WODS team. His first show was Salad Days in 1983 and he has since loyally supported WODS with great warmth, talent and expertise. However, having played for 61 shows and been a rehearsal pianist for 24 years, Mike has decided it’s time to take his foot off the sustain pedal and retire.

“The whole of the WODS family are obviously very sad and disappointed that he is leaving us, and we will all miss his wonderful smile, kindness and support, both at rehearsals and during show week.

“That said, Mike thoroughly deserves a rest and retirement and we all wish him the very best for his future.

“We hope to mark his retirement for everyone in the society who wants to wish him well with a special event as soon as we are able to meet up again. Mike will never be forgotten and leaves a lasting legacy and a large hole in our WODS lives. Thank you, Mike.”

Following Mike’s retirement Worcester Operatic and Dramatic society is looking for a new rehearsal pianist in readiness for when it resumes rehearsals in 2021 once COVID restrictions are finally lifted.

The rehearsal pianist would be required to attend weekly rehearsals 7.30pm - 10pm each Wednesday evening, assisting the MD and accompanying the rehearsal. They would also be required to attend additional rehearsals including band call, technical rehearsal, dress rehearsal and six performances during show week including a matinee on Saturday.

Anyone interested in this role or would like more information should contact info@wods.co.uk