Brussels Light Opera Company

About BLOC

About BLOC

Brussels Light Opera Company is the largest amateur musical theatre company in Brussels and performs principally in English. It comprises over 200 members from 22 nations, encompassing a broad spectrum of cultures, ages and professions, who all share a love of musical theatre and who work together as amateurs to achieve high-quality productions as well as enjoy varied social activities.

Each year BLOC puts on at least two shows. The show performed in May or June auditions in January, rehearses on Monday and Tuesday evenings through the spring (adding in Sunday afternoons in the month before the show) and plays with a small band or orchestra to a 300 to 400-seater theatre for five performances. The show performed in November auditions in June (immediately after the spring show), and rehearses on Monday & Tuesday evenings from September onwards (adding in Sunday afternoons as the rehearsal process gathers momentum), culminating in five performances with full orchestra in a 650-seater theatre.

BLOC welcomes all newcomers. To perform in a show it is obligatory to audition for principal roles and for chorus. Formal musical training is not obligatory but reading music really does help during auditions and rehearsals. Nobody is paid save the Musical Director, Choreographer and orchestra members.

Non-singing members are very welcome as willing hands are always needed backstage or to help with administration. To stage any musical a small army of people is needed both before the show and backstage during the show. A production team is needed to give technical and administrative help both pre-show and backstage so many different skills are needed: carpentry, painting, costume designing and making, makeup and hairstyling, poster and programme design, making props, stage managing, sound, lighting…..the list is endless and if you haven’t tackled any of these before there are many on hand to teach and encourage. There’s something for everyone - it’s hard work but lots of fun.

The club holds an Annual General Meeting in March each year where the events of the year are documented and when members can air their views about how the club is run. The committee comprises an Honorary Chairman, Honorary Secretary and an Honorary Treasurer plus four more ordinary members. These officers of the club put themselves forward or are nominated each year and serve for that year, until the next Annual General Meeting (Or Extraordinary General Meeting). There is no fixed term of office.

BLOC’s social life includes barbecues, themed events, but most of all it involves companionship during or after rehearsal, and challenges in planning and running productions. Prospective members are always welcome to come and observe BLOC in action at our rehearsal home of De Kam in Wezembeek, so to find out more please contact one of the committee members - their email addresses are published on the BLOC website. BLOC is always looking for new members so if you think you might be interested, get in touch!

History

BLOC began life in 1975 as the Brussels Gilbert and Sullivan Society under the chairmanship of Peter Barker-Jones. During the next seventeen years, all the Savoy operas were performed on at least one occasion, either in concert or as a full production. However, the mounting costs of full scale operatic productions and the continuing dependence on ticket revenue as the primary source of income meant that the Society had to broaden its range of music theatre to attract larger audiences. For this reason, the Society was re-launched in 1992 as the Brussels Light Opera Company, or BLOC as it is commonly known.

Since the club’s name change in the 1990s there have been fewer G&S productions as BLOC has explored other musical theatre (Fiddler on the Roof, Evita, Beauty & The Beast, Pajama Game, Guys & Dolls, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, Wizard of Oz, A Christmas Carol, Crazy for You - to name just a few).

A more detailed history of the recent period can be found in our newsletter archive (See ‘BLOCNotes’ archive).

Membership

BLOC is an amateur group of people of many nationalities, composed of adults and children of all ages. Although singing is the company’s main concern, the social side is not neglected and several events are organised throughout the year, the main ones being the Christmas party which usually follows the AGM and the summer party. Other events, such as performance from scratch which give all members a chance to sing solo parts, and trips to see performances by other groups are organised from time to time. All members receive a regular update on activities through the BLOC notes newsletter.

Not more than two major shows are performed during one calendar year and you do not have to take part in every show. Non-singing members are also very welcome as willing hands are always needed backstage or to help with administration. Please feel free to sit in on a few rehearsals before committing yourself. All newcomers wishing to perform on stage are required to take an informal voice test, but you are not expected to have any musical training in order to join.

Click here to see Bloc membership policy.

A Typical Production

Two slots in the amateur theatre calendar set up by ACTS (Association of Choral and Theatrical Societies set up by the major amateur theatrical groups in Brussels) are allotted to BLOC. Once the dates are fixed, BLOC endeavours to book a theatre for these two slots.

The BLOC committee decides on the next show to be performed based on one or more proposals submitted by a team of Stage Director, Music Director and Producer(s).

For the show performed in May or June each year, auditions are typically held in December or January for the principal roles and chorus. These auditions are open to BLOC members and those who wish to become a BLOC member. Anyone accepting a role must become a member of the company – the fee is €40 to be a performing member and €20 to be a non-performing member. The fee is waived for members under 16 years of age.

Rehearsals are held on Monday evenings for soloists and Tuesday evenings for chorus, increasing to Sunday afternoons as well as the show gets nearer.

The last week of any production requires considerable commitment from all the cast, a typical diary being as follows:

Saturday or Sunday am Orchestra rehearsal, sometimes with soloists
Sunday pm Italienne (when the orchestra/band plays through the music of the show with the entire cast for the first time)
Monday all day Get In to the theatre of set, costumes, etc. by stage crew
Tuesday Evening Technical Rehearsal with accompanist/some orchestra
Wednesday Evening Dress Rehearsal with full orchestra
Thursday Evening Performance
Friday Evening Performance
Saturday Matinee and Evening performance
Sunday Matinee performance followed by striking of set
Sunday Evening After show party
Monday Get Out for stage crew

There is usually one week off and then the cycle starts again with preparation for the next show!

Social Life

Although singing, acting and dancing are the company’s main concern, the social side is not neglected and several events are organised throughout the year, the main ones being the Christmas party and the September BBQ. Typically there is a cast party held for all participants, on stage and off, following the last performance of each show.

So along with cast parties and bbqs, themed events are sometimes planned and dance/acting/makup workshops to name just a few. Most of all, though, it means sharing the love of musical theatre with like-minded people – be they young or old, or whatever nationality (and BLOC has around 22 nationalities in its membership). It involves companionship during or after rehearsal, and challenges in planning and running productions. Prospective members are always welcome to come and observe BLOC in action at our rehearsal home of De Kam in Wezembeek, so to find out more please contact one of the committee members - their email addresses are published on the BLOC website. BLOC is always looking for new members so if you think you might be interested, get in touch!