Melvyn Tarran - Our Founder
Melvyn was a great lover of music but, especially, from the age of 16, the works of
Gilbert and Sullivan. Although he was keen to have a stage career himself he ultimately
went into catering and actually owned a number of restaurants. The most appropriate,
considering his love of G & S, was one called “Sullivan’s” in Hassocks which opened in
Melvyn took ownership of premises at Sheffield Park in the mid 1980s and this was the
ideal catalyst to kick-start his fascination for collecting items of interest and he
consequently opened “The World of Gilbert & Sullivan” museum which remained in
existence until 2013 when the premises were sold to The National Trust. The collection
comprised a vast selection of personal mementos, letters, music manuscripts, original
costumes from the D'Oyly Carte Company, posters and portraits. The museum was
included in the BBC's 'Antiques Road Trip' programme in August 2011 with Tom Conti and antiques expert James Braxton.
Melvyn was the perfect host for the museum and arranged numerous organised tours for different groups. He was always on hand to show people round and engage with them, explaining how he obtained certain items. After the closure of the museum, Melvyn’s concern was what would happen to the collection. He embarked on a major cataloguing exercise to ascertain exactly what he had got. He was keen on the collection staying together and being on display.
Fortunately, Melvyn found someone keen to take it on and, although he never saw it in its new location, he knew he had found its appropriate new home. In 2011 Melvyn formed what became the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Sussex and was the obvious choice for Chairman. He held that position until 2018 when, due to poor health, he stood down.
He was immediately elected to the role of Co-President along with Valerie Masterson.In addition to his Sussex-based Presidency, Melvyn also held the position of VicePresident with The Gilbert & Sullivan Society, a position he held from 2010 until his death.
If you are one of those people who walk out before the credits on a film you will have missed the fact that Melvyn was a consultant on Mike Leigh’s film “Topsy Turvy”. I remember Melvyn, with great pride, telling me that the walking cane used by Jim Broadbent in the role of Gilbert was the genuine article owned by WSG and was lent by the museum.
Melvyn loved the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and built lasting friendships with manyof its former members and he used these friendships to develop a series of Sunday afternoon concerts. He held some really first rate events featuring major people from the world of G & S.
Melvyn was also good at spotting talent and actively supported a number of “newcomers” and helped them on their career path. This remarkable list includes people
such as Stephen Anthony Brown, Alfie Boe, and James Cleverton who sang at Melvyn’s funeral. Melvyn’s final years were disturbed by illness but he remained as engaged and excited
about Gilbert and Sullivan, as ever, to the end.
Melvyn lived in Sussex and owned a beautiful house and garden which was a stunning setting for innumerable social occasions which will be long remembered with happiness by so many. Our thoughts continue to be with Kay and the family. Melvyn – you had great knowledge, were an inspiration to others and will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace.