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WALTER BUTT BACK IN TOWN (article first published : 2007-06-21)

Voice and choral music expert Walter Butt will be visiting his childhood hometown of Amanzimtoti and Durban, with the acclaimed North West Youth Choir.

Walter Butt (then Visagie Ė his adoptive fatherís name) attended Umbogintwini Government Primary School and Amanzimtoti Primary School before being awarded a full bursary to attend the Drakensberg Boys Choir. One of Walterís most treasured childhood memories is of singing a solo and conducting the Drakensberg Boys Choir, at the age of eleven, for Pope John Paul II and his congregation of 25 000 at St. Peters Square, Rome.

At 17, Walter studied singing with Dawie Couzyn and two years later with the late soprano Joyce Barker at Wits Opera School. He was awarded many scholarships, notably the Abraham and Olga Lippmann, Ernest Oppenheimer Fund and SAMRO. He proceeded to win various music competitions including the Friends of the PTA State Opera National Singing Competition; in the same year he was the only male finalist in the Mimi Coertse National Singing Competition.

He then pursued further voice training in London with Josephine Veasey and later in Vienna with Kammersangerin Hilde Zadek and the late KS Walter Berry, as well as Lied and Oratorio with Norman Shetler. Shortly after arriving in Vienna, Walter reached the final round of the Harthauer International Singing Competition and was featured on Austrian TVís Stars of Tomorrow. He participated in Masterclasses with Roger Vignoles, David Lutz, Toma Popescu and Antonio Carangelo. His first European engagement was in the Wiener Kameroper; he later performed in the Wiener Operntheater in the Jugendstiltheater, the Moerbisch and Salzburg Festivals, for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation with the Vienna Philharmonic, with the Savaria Symphony Orchestra in Sombathy, Hungary; he also conducted the Dodici Chamber Orchestra from Gyor in Hungary.

On the death of his mother, Walter returned to South Africa and reverted to the use of his birth name (Butt). Although he had initially pursued a singing career, his passion had always been for conducting. He was appointed as resident assistant conductor at Cape Town Opera and vocal coach for the Demindex Opera Studio, UCT, before being recruited by the University of KZN to consult on the design of a curriculum for their new Opera School and Choral Academy (OSCA). He put together an orchestra from scratch, made up mostly of members of the KZNPO and led by Jitske Brien, trained the opera chorus and coached the singers for the Opera Gala Concert which he conducted in the KZN Playhouse Opera Theatre, Durban.

Walter Butt is currently the Artistic Director of The Singing Nation, a section 21 Company, now home to the National Youth Choir Course of South Africa and other operatic and choral training projects. He has consulted various choirs in South Africa including the Drakensberg Boys Choir, and has adjudicated several national vocal competitions.

He is regularly invited to hold workshops on conducting and singing, particularly in preparation for the numerous choral competitions across South Africa. He was recently appointed Musical Director of both the Randburg Male Voice Choir and the North-West Youth Choir. He teaches singing and conducting at Wits School of Arts where he was recently assistant musical director to Graham Scott and conducted a season of the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Societyís production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. He performed at the 2006 Pretoria News PROMS Concert in the Spoornet State Theatre, PTA as baritone soloist, conductor and chorus master, under the guidance of maestro Graham Scott.

Walter Butt will bring the internationally acclaimed North-West Youth Choir to Durban as part of their current nationwide tour. The North-West Youth Choirís first appearance will be at Gateway on June 23 at 17h30. After singing at 10h00 Mass in Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Musgrave Road on June 24, the NWYC will join the Durban Chamber Choir for a Sunday afternoon concert. For more details contact Barbara Trofimczyk on 072 328 0605.

On June 25 the choir will pay a visit to Poinsettia Park Old Age Home and on June 26 at 18h00, they will perform under the auspices of The Lions Club in the Amanzimtoti Civic Centre, before leaving for Johannesburg. Contact the Amanzimtoti Lions Club (Andy on 083 632 1388).

The Durban Tour concert programme includes classical works and African traditional songs as well as popular light songs such as Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity, Kwaad by Chris Chameleon, Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt and Java Jive of Manhattan Transfer fame.

More information on the tour from North-West Youth Choir Tour Organiser, Ria Marais, on 082 328 9635.

For more information on Walter Buttís 2007 performance calendar (including the12th Annual National Youth Choir Course) visit: www.singingnation.co.za




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