In 1913 the Lay Vicars of Winchester Cathedral, hearing of the success of the Salisbury Operatic Society asked for their help in starting a Society in Winchester. Mr Jabez Whitwam and Mr Elsmere called a public meeting which launched the Society with a production of "The Pirates of Penzance" which ran for three days.
The Society has performed almost all of the works of Gilbert & Sullivan (many several times) and has extended its repertoire to include Operettas, Musicals and Grand Opera. Autumn Concerts and pantomimes have occasionally featured in the annual program. (Go to our list of past productions)
To meet a need a Youth Section (WOS Juniors) was formed in 1981 by Ben Wright. In 2000 the name was changed to Encore - WOS Youth Theatre.
In June 2009 Encore Youth Theatre took the step of becoming a society in their own right and decided to break away from WOS. We wish them luck in their future ventures.
Of the many distinguished Musical Directors and Producers that have worked with the Society the best known is Sir Malcolm Sargent who worked with us during the 1920s and 1930s.
Artistic tastes and indeed the whole way of life have changed drastically over the past three-quarters of a century. There are no longer carriages at 10.30 as advertised in the program of the 1913 production or changes to the King Alfred Motor Service timetable to coincide with the end of a performance as in 1920 and 1930. The Hampshire Chronicle, while still zealously and accurately recording the Societies activities, no longer devotes five or six complete columns to the subject. Nevertheless despite the onslaught of progress our aim remains the same and true to our motto we will continue to "Aspire towards Perfection".
Donations of several thousands of pounds have been made to a number of charities over the years and the Society continues to contribute to the Theatre Royal, which was its home from 1986 to 1995 and is again following the major restoration work completed in 2001. These contributions help ensure the continuation of a vibrant theatre in the city.
The Society enjoys the support from the "Friends of WOS" and the citizens of Winchester and district who make it possible for its work to continue.