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Arthur Sullivan Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Arthur Sullivan passes away in 1900.

Arthur Sullivan was a British composer, most famous for his work with W.S. Gilbert.

Sullivan was born on May 13th, 1842 in London, England. At the age of 8 he composed his first anthem. Music was a part of Sullivan's upbringing, his father was a military bandmaster.

At the age of 14 Sullivan received the Mendelssohn Scholarship, the first of it's kind given by the Royal Academy of Music. This led to Sullivan studying in Germany at the Leipzig Conservatorie. As his graduation piece, Sullivan wrote a suite of music to go along with Shakespeare's The Tempest. He completed it in 1861. When his suite was performed a year later in London it was a huge success.

During the rest of the 1860's Sullivan's reputation continued to grow. He wrote Operas, Ballets and Orchestral pieces as well as work as a conductor. During 1866 he wrote his first enduring piece called Cox and Box. Cox and Box is a based on an earlier one act play called Box and Cox a story of two men who share an apartment and do not get along, possibly a foreshadowing of what was to come with Gilbert.

Gilbert and Sullivan were polar opposites when it came to personalities. Where Gilbert had a reputation for his caustic wit and sarcasm, Sullivan was a more mild mannered individual and was very at home interacting with England's high society.

In 1871 Sullivan first partnered with Gilbert. Sullivan was brought in to put music to Gilbert's operatic extravaganza Thespis or The Gods Grown Old. The two then went their separate ways. The duo reunited in 1875 by producer Richard D'Oyly Carte. Carte foresaw the success of Gilbert and Sullivan had and wanted the two writing together.

Until the early 1890's the two composed 14 pieces together nicknamed the "Savoy Operas". The operas gained their nickname due to the fact Carte used the profits he made from the 14 pieces to build the Savoy Theatre. This also turned out to be the down fall of the duo in 1891 when a disagreement between Gilbert and Carte about finances of the Savoy, eventually, caused Gilbert and Sullivan to dissolve their partnership. Carte, missing the income Gilbert and Sullivan brought in, tried to get the two back together and eventually succeeded for two more operas. Their last collaboration was The Grand Duke an opera laced with Masonic allusions. It was also very long. Comments at the time stated the length was due to the fact Gilbert and Sullivan were not speaking to each other at the time.

Sullivan passed away on November 22nd, 1900.

Sullivan took his first degree in Harmony Lodge No. 255 in 1865. In 1883 he became the Grand Organist for the United Grand Lodge of England.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.