World class Gilbert and Sullivan tenor dies, aged 100

Thomas Round and Yvonne Marsh in the film The Gilbert and Sullivan Story.
Thomas Round and Yvonne Marsh in the film The Gilbert and Sullivan Story.

One of the greatest tenors Britain ever produced has died, aged 100.

Thomas Round, who lived in Bolton-le-Sands, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday evening.

He would have turned 101 on October 18.

Thomas was famed for singing with the D’Oyly Carte and Sadler’s Wells opera companies and toured all over the world.

A legend with fans of Gilbert and Sullivan, Tom performed in the 1958 Royal Variety Performance alongside such stars as Bruce Forsyth, Harry Secombe and The Beverley Sisters.

He appeared in the first full-length opera to be shown on BBC television in 1955 - La Traviata.

He performed in Australia, Canada and the USA, including at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 20,000 people.

Tom also flew Spitfires during World War Two and as a policeman, guarded the house where Lancaster’s most notorious murder took place – Dr Buck Ruxton killing his wife and housekeeper in 1935.

He was born at Cemetery Cottages, Barrow-in-Furness, on October 18 1915.

As a child he began singing as a baritone in the nearby St Paul’s Mission church choir, where he met his future wife Alice.

They would eventually marry in 1938 and enjoyed 72 happy years together until her death in 2010. The couple had a son Ellis, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

While still in the RAF, Round auditioned for the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company who performed Gilbert and Sullivan comic operettas all over the world.

He joined the company in February 1946, which he says was the highlight of his career.

His first role was as Luiz in The Gondoliers but eventually he became the company’s principal tenor.

He played roles including Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, Earl Tolloller in Iolanthe and his favourite, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado.

In 2008 the critic of The Gramophone, John Steane, wrote that, of Gilbert and Sullivan tenors, Round was “surely the best we’ve had.”

Tom also performed with Sadler’s Wells as Don Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni.

He appeared in countless radio broadcasts during the 1950s and ‘60s and was a regular on the BBC’s ‘Friday Night is Music Night’.

He also had a part in the 1953 film ‘The Gilbert and Sullivan Story’.

Tom twice performed for the Queen, once in the Royal Variety show of 1958, which was a star-studded bill, and in a stage version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard at the Tower of London in the early 1960s.

He also co-founded his own touring company ‘Gilbert and Sullivan For All’.

During the height of his opera career, Tom and Alice lived in London. But as his touring days began to wind down, they moved to Bolton-le-Sands. Up until just a few years ago he would sing and give talks locally, and was president of Lancaster and District Choral Society from 2006 until 2015.

Thomas’ funeral will be held on October 18 at 11.45am at Lancaster Crematorium.