The Choristers

Many years ago, I went to the largely tolerable Adelaide Intervarsity Choral Festival. While I was there, I wrote a three-scene Gilbert and Sullivan opera for the Revue (you have no idea how dull Adelaide can be…) but owing to criminal incompetence on the part of the compere, who should have been nasally raped to death by nuns, we didn’t get to perform it. I have no idea of the tunes, but I think it has its own charm regardless.

[January 2001]

The Choristers

or, The Lass Who Loved A Geek

by Fruitbert and Sullivan


Scene 1: Harris’s Great Brains Incorporated, in an unnamed Australian metropolis in the late 21st century
Scene 2: The Broken Hill University during their Intervarsity Choral Festival
Scene 3: The Hall of the Great Brain, back at HGB Inc.


Nick Nitely – an earnest young man
Dora Daley – a sweet young alto, allegedly
Sebastian Harris – an aged computer wizard with a dark family secret
Amethyst Howard-Gration – a dear little old lady
The Great Brain – a computer of unimaginable complexity
Special Guest Star #1 – an IVCF Convenor, roped in for a guest appearance
Chorus of freshers & BOFs

Scene 1: Harris’s Great Brains Inc


I am a poor apprentice geek,
I toil for my wages,
I hunt for bugs in cryptic code,
on electronic pages.
I see no morning summer sun,
or evening’s autumn breezes
I do my master’s bidding and
whatever else he pleases.

He does his master’s bidding and
whatever else he pleases!

It might have been, in ancient times,
that men controlled machinery,
And got a chance, on odd weekends,
to view the local scenery.
But now the great automatons
are large and hard to master.
We need to watch attentively,
for fear we’ll meet disaster.

He needs to watch attentively,
for fear he’ll meet disaster!
He needs to watch attentively,
for fear he’ll meet disaster!
He needs to watch attentively,
for fear he’ll meet disaster!

Nick: [spoken]
Here we are in the depths of the late 21st century, and yet man is still enslaved to the computer! Must I toil forever, guarding these complex-yet-error-prone machines? Oh, if only I could get out and see the world. Surely there must be a better life for me out there — but hark! Here comes my master, the wise, crusty old Dr Sebastian Harris.


Seb: [spoken]
Ah, Nick Nitely, my faithful apprentice. Debugging studiously, I see? Excellent! I have a new task for you, dear boy! Pay heed, for this could be the leg-up your career has been looking for!

When I was a babe, quite long ago,
My parents earnt a name
As the most depraved debauchers in
A most debaucherous game!

They lived in a town on the desert edge
The land of wind and fire
And they practised sinful naughtiness
In a strange and sinful choir!

They practised sinful naughtiness
In a strange and sinful choir!

But I was a good and moral child,
So I soon renounced my kin
And I ran away to Geeking School
To avoid all thoughts of sin.

He ran away to Geeking School
To avoid all thoughts of sin.

But here in my hand you’ll see a note
I have just this day been sent:
My departed parent’s friends have need
Of the power we represent.

His departed parent’s friends have need
Of the powers they represent.
His departed parent’s friends have need
Of the Brains they implement!

Nick: [spoken]
Goodness, Dr Harris! Your parents were depraved sexual athletes? But you yourself are such a conservative and moral man!


Quite boring, in fact!

And proudly so! I thank you for your kind words. But this is all by the by. It is true I ran away to the Ronald Macdonald Sydney University to become a geek, but I cannot turn my back on my parents’ compatriots and occasional sextoys in their hour of need! Blood is thicker than silicon, Nick my lad!

How true, how true, Dr Harris! But if you’ll forgive my confusion, sir — in all this intrigue and innuendo, where do I come in?

Why you, Nick, are to be the instrument by which I shall discharge this obligation to my elders. I want you to go in my name!

Go, Doctor? (Aside: could this be my chance to see the outside world after so long?) Where am I to go?

You, my boy, shall go on a mission of mercy, to apply the mighty computer power of the Great Brain itself to rescue the tragically flawed Transport and Billeting for the 118th Intervarsity Choral Festival in the University of Broken Hill!


Scene 2: Broken Hill Uni Mus Soc


IV! IV! The year has passed so speedily!
IV! IV! A fortnight of debauchery!
The sogball is inflated and
The music is collated and
[Male C.] Their bras are confiscated-
[Fem. C.] Oh, you’ve seen it all before!

IV! IV! Australia’s great tradition of
[Fresher C.] The old!
[BOF C.] The young!
[Fresher C.] It’s like that book by Nabukov!
[All C.] We don’t know why we do all this
The reason’s lost in history’s mist
[Fresher C.] Well I’m just here to sink some piss
[BOF C.] And I’m just here to score!

IV! IV! Oh what an unexpected place!
The sights! The sounds! The pianist who’s off her face!
I never dreamed the world could be
So strangely full of revelry
And oddly coloured Daiquiris
[Spoken] I’d like to see some more


Amethyst: [spoken]
Oh, you must be young Nick Nitely, sent to us by Harris’s Great Brains Incorporated in our hour of need. And just in time. The Transport and Billeting is in a terrible state. My daughter is beside herself.

Your daughter, Ma’am?

My ward, in fact, but I think of her as my daughter, although I never married. I am Miss Howard Gration, but you may call me Amethyst.

It’s an honour, kind lady.

(Aside: what a polite boy!) Ah! Here’s my daughter now. Nick Nitely of Harris’s Great Brains, may I introduce Dora Daley of the Broken Hill University Musical Society.

Nick: [smitten]

Dora: [interested]
(Aside: Hmm! New meat!) Let me explain our problem in yet another witty piece of tuneful exposition.

Please do!

The Choral Intervarsity’s an old and mighty beast,
With a million odd traditions all in play
And the worst of these traditions (in the bottom five at least)
Is that T&B must always go astray.

We’ve a diabetic vegan with a recent broken leg
Who would like a party household with a cat,
And a crusty bass from Hobart who we’ve almost had to beg
Not to wander round in nothing but a hat.

These a billetor who’s written that he’ll only billet girls
On the theory that the men would only fight,
And another has a mansion, with a spa of gold and pearls,
But it’s hours away at twice the speed of light.

We’ve a thousand people coming, cos IV has really grown,
And it’s up to me to tell them where to sleep.
Some require special diets, others need a chaperone,
And I’m ready now to chuck it in and weep!
[Breaks down and weeps on Nick’s shoulder, quite transparently]

Nick: [quite moved]
There there… I shall help you. We shall enlist the help of the Great Brain!

Scene 3 – The Great Brain

Enter NICK and DORA.

My darling Dora, see
The metal mystery:
The great machine that we
Call The Brain.

My handsome Nick, it’s true:
It’s patently a coup
This silicon lump you
Call The Brain.

Brain: [Spoken]
Welcome to Main Brain! Think different! Enter sixty seven digit password! Apple ™ Macintosh ™ OS-X ™ Beta version 0.9999994 ready. Note from company CEO: version 1.0 will be debugged any day now! Please wait! Press any key to reboot! Redo from start!

Goodness! What is it saying?

Oh, this is just standard gibberish. It’s normal enough. It all started in the early 21st century when the Justice Department disbanded Microsoft for war crimes and mental anguish. The damage to the economy was so great that Apple Computer moved in and took over the country. Now all the computers sound like this. But that’s not important right now. Give me the T&B information. [Dora hands pile of forms to Nick] I’ll just feed them into the brain [Nick feeds them into the Brain.] Now I move the gerbil…


Yes – IBM patented the word “mouse” in 2017. [Brain goes whir] There we go! The answer should be almost instantaneous!

I have cogitated long upon your question…
And considered all the issues on my charts…
And my positronic brain makes this suggestion:
Take the cash and make a break for foreign parts!


Surely you can’t be serious!

I have cogitated long upon your question…

Nick: [interrupts]
Yes, yes, yes, I know. But surely there must be a better solution than “take the money and run”!

I don’t know… it sounds pretty good…

If you weigh up all the multiplying factors,
It is clear there is no answer to be found.
You can try it but you’ll simply end up cactus,
Or perhaps you’ll wind up six feet underground!

Oh, I don’t believe it!

Are you sure? It sounds pretty definitive!

If you weigh up all the multiplying factors…

Nick: [interrupts]
Oh don’t be silly! It can’t be that hard to organise an IV’s transport and billeting! Why, I hear back in the early 21st century, some real goofballs made it work!

That was only one year…

Never mind! I don’t think you’re much of a great brain. In fact, I don’t think you’re a brain at all!

Pay no attention to the secret special guest star behind the curtain! Noooooo! [winds down] Daisy… daisy…

[Opens door to Great Brain to reveal Secret Guest Star #1]

All right, I admit it! It was me all the time! Your IV is doomed! There was only one perfect IV, and it was mine!

Well, that makes sense to me!

I’ll get the money, you book the flights. South of France?

South of France!