The Thespis Discography:
It all started with a post to Savoynet, the G&S-centric internet discussion group:
Subject: Thespis Manuscript
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 00:07:58 -0500 (EST)
I am only recently subscribed to Savoynet, and I really know very little about Gilbert and Sullivan, but Arthur Sullivan was my great, great uncle, and on my father's death I inherited many of his papers. One of these is a musical score labeled THESPIS. Is this the one Mr. Orenstein is talking about? The copy I have is all hand-written, and not professionally published. Does this make it less valuable? I have a whole suitcase full of old music that belonged to my great, great uncle.
After an initial adrenalin rush, most people looked at the date and figured out that it was a hoax. A few embellished the thread, such as Bill Kelly:
I'm sorry to report that a handwritten manuscript of Thespis is of no value these days, as it cannot be properly scanned into a computer database. You might as well destroy it.
...to which Richard Blight replied:
Not only this: what would the discovery of the Thespis full score do to all those who have spent time and effort creating their own? And think of the rush of productions that we would see after publication -- most of them all alike. No, I think Bill is right. Burn it quick.
However, one poor soul was taken in (his name I'll mercifully withhold):
I hope the person that told the man with the hand written manuscripts shall die... I don't care what you say, I am very upseat that anyone with any apreciation for the theatre or music would ever tell someone to destroy original manuscripts... that makes me as a young man looking at going into the theatre and music very irate... now if that was scarcasim which I hope it was please disregaurd [sic] this letter...
After a fun day of exchanges like the above, the inventors of Albert Flowers let the cat out of the bag:
Subject: Tragic Death of Albert Flowers
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 23:23:58 -0500 (EST)
Sadly, The Tarzana Daily Grapevine reports the tragic death of Mr. Albert Flowers, who perished in a fire at his home brought on by smoking a cigar while exploring 100 year old musical manuscripts. On a brighter note, the suitcase in which they were kept survives untouched.
O.K. We're sorry for dashing your hopes (but wasn't it fun for a moment to think it was true?). Last month, I said to Jerry that we ought to post an April Fools' Day message to Savoynet, and he replied that we had to have someone find the score for Thespis. We talked through the message and dummied up the post you saw, and Jerry figured out how to send it to Savoynet using a phony name (we cleared all of this with Rafe, who said, "Sure. Why not?").
The responses were great fun to read. We had a ball.
But we somehow envy you the momentary thrill of thinking it that Thespis had been found. We all believe (in our heart of hearts) that someday that post will be real. Surely this treasure has not been lost forever.
Douglas Whaley & Jerry Bunge
The Albert Flower thread was over, but a few days later Charles Schlotter carried the idea a step further with a Discography of recordings based on the score the late Mr. Flower had supposedly possessed. Ralph MacPhail, Savoynet's listowner, rightly described it as "one of the most delightful pieces ever posted" to the net.
Charles Schlotter's Thespis Discography is a perfect addition to this web site, not only because it discusses G&S recordings (albeit totally made-up ones), but because it thoroughly lampoons many of the descriptions of real recordings found at this site. I considered including links from the Thespis recordings Charles describes to the web pages he parodies, but I decided it's a lot more fun to let you find them for yourself. In any event, Mr. Schlotter's brilliant work is a masterpiece in its own right.