Leighton Phraner Memorial

      Leighton Phraner, one of the founders of the Connecticut Gilbert & Sullivan Society, passed away Nov 4 at Middlesex Hospital at age 87 after a protracted illness. There will be a memorial service at the First Church of Christ Congregational, 499 Town St., East Haddam, CT, at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 18, which, appropriately, is W. S. Gilbert’s birth date. His obituary may be viewed here.

      A well-known vocal teacher, Leighton contributed to dozens of CG&SS productions both as a cast member and a producer. He will be remembered for his starring roles as Major General Stanley, Ko-Ko, Bunthorne, John Wellington Wells and many others. One of his most memorable characters was as the ill-tempered dwarf in the title role of Robert Cumming’s operetta Rumplestiltskin, which required tremendous physical effort since he played the entire show hunched over with knees bent almost to the floor.

       Leighton began his professional career in New York City after graduating from Princeton. He performed many lead roles with the Hunter College G&S productions (where Bob Cumming directed), the Village Light Opera Group, and in both Pirates and Pinafore at Lincoln Center with the Little Orchestra Society.  Active with the New York Singing Teachers Assn. and President of the National Assn. of Teachers of Singing for several years, Leighton taught voice at 33 Riverside Drive (a home once owned by Rachmaninoff with Gershwin’s penthouse on the top floor), until coming to East Haddam in 1978 where he continued his teaching.

        He was so popular with audiences that they would often applaud his entrances before he even said a line. Always modest about his formidable talents, when congratulated on a role, he might respond dismissively (as Bunthorne would), “My soul has gone out into it. That was all. It was nothing worth mentioning, it occurs three times a day!” 

      Memorial donations may be made to the First Church of christ Congregational, where Leighton’s voice students performed in many recitals. Our Society has also set up a special fund to honor Leighton. If you are mailing in a donation please mark it “In Celebration of Leighton Phraner” and send it to: CG&SS P.O. Box 313, Middlefield, CT 06455. We can also accept your donation over the phone (860-554-1256) or you can make a donation via our secure on-line site by clicking here.