Let’s Sing Out

Let’s Sing Out was a Canadian music television series which aired on CTV from 1963 to 1966, and then on CBC Television until 1968.  The series featured contemporary folk music and was hosted by folk musician Oscar Brand.  Guests on the show included Gordon Lightfoot, Pete Seeger and a young, little known singer named Joni Anderson … later, Joni Mitchell.  In a collection of her live performances on the show, a portion of one broadcast includes Joni and Oscar Brand singing “Prithee, Pretty Maiden.”  While it’s certainly fun to hear them sing the song, it has to be admitted that they tend be a bit loose with lyrics and the music, giving it something of a 1960s folk music flavor!

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small is a television series, set in 1937, based on a series of books about a Yorkshire veterinarian, written by Alf Wight under the pen name of James Herriot. The series was produced by Playground Entertainment for Channel 5 in the United Kingdom, and for PBS in the United States.

In Season 4, Episode 1, titled Broodiness, first broadcast on January 7, 2024, the head veterinarian, Siegfried Farnon, played by Samuel West, sings an impromptu parody of the women’s chorus from Patience, having found where Mrs. Hall, played by Anna Madeley, hid his tobacco, to keep him from backsliding during Lent. He joyously sings, “Let the merry cymbal sound! Fill the pipe with greatest pleasure!”

Chariots of Fire

The 1981 film, Chariots of Fire includes multiple Gilbert and Sullivan references.  The protagonist, Harold Abrahams, is a devoted Gilbert and Sullivan fan.  The film features “He is an Englishman” from H.M.S. Pinafore, “With Catlike Tread” from The Pirates of Penzance, “The Soldiers of Our Queen” from Patience, “Three Little Maids from School Are We” from The Mikado and “There Lived a King” from The Gondoliers.

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov was a devoted Gilbert and Sullivan fan and the author of I, Robot, a collection of nine science fiction short stories about the interaction of humans, robots and morality. The stories, originally published independently, were compiled into a single book and woven together by a framing narrative. The second story in the collection, titled “Runaround,” takes place on Mercury, in a mining facility. Robot SPD-13, nicknamed “Speedy,” is missing after having been sent out on a mission. The two men responsible for the facility, Powell and Donovan, go out in search of him. Eventually they find “Speedy” who is obviously malfunctioning. He is running around in a circle, weaving and appearing to be drunk. When they try to speak to the robot, he responds, “I’m Little Buttercup, sweet Little Buttercup,” and then says “There grew a little flower ‘neath a great oak tree.” One of the men asks the other, “Where did he pick up Gilbert and Sullivan?” As the story goes on, “Speedy” continues to quote fragments of Gilbert and Sullivan, including, “I’ve made a little list … the piano organist … all people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,” and “lover’s professions when uttered in Hessians.” At one point Speedy” says, “When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is tabooed,” to which Powell murmurs, “Iolanthe!” Later in the story, “Speedy” and Powell are watching each other “without a word of Gilbert and Sullivan gibberish as a greeting” and Powell thinks to himself, “Thank God for that!” In a subsequent story in the collection, the characters of Powell and Donovan appear again and are confronted with another malfunctioning robot. In response to the situation, one of the men says to the other, “Well, at least he’s not quoting Gilbert and Sullivan!”