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Richard Butt

20 May 1928 - 12 October 2010

The death of Richard Butt on 12 October 2010 was a sad day for many who knew him. Richard was conductor of our choir from 1966 - 1992 and Senior Producer for BBC Radio 3 in the Midlands at Pebble Mill. He inspired everyone with his deep knowledge, his wonderful sense of humour and his desire for musical excellence. In his time the Bach Society (as it was then) was truly one of the leading musical organisations of Birmingham. He was a deeply passionate and knowledgeable Bach scholar who wrote a practical catalogue of Bach's Cantatas which still serves as a point of reference by all who want to delve deeper into the huge resource of this area of Bach's output which is still relatively unknown.

In the BBC Richard worked with all the greatest artists in the world of classical music. He produced all the concerts from the Aldeburgh Festival for many years and knew Britten and Pears as friends. He produced the first broadcast performance of Britten's War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral in 1962. Richard had a series of unsuccessful operations on his knees and ended up completely disabled. Latterly he developed cancer from which he died in the Marie Curie Hospice in Solihull. He will be much missed.

A personal tribute from Paul Spicer, Conductor

I was deeply saddened by the death of Richard who was a close friend and mentor over some thirty years. We first met in, I think, 1980 at Ellesmere College in Shropshire where I was Director of Music at the time. We soon became good friends and discovered that we had many musical enthusiasms in common. Richard taught me everything about how Bach should be approached, prepared and conducted in the early days of our friendship. In March 1988 he brought back from Leipzig a full score of the Barenreiter edition of Bach’s B minor Mass for me as a gift. It was like being given the keys to the kingdom. I spent many happy hours going through the score with him and annotating it with comments which he made and many wise points he passed on to me from his vast experience. It informed everything I then put into preparing each Bach work I conducted for the first time. ... MORE

A tribute from Michael Palmer,
Vice Chairman

I first met Richard at the Birmingham Art Gallery in 1965 where he was conducting a concert with Orchestra da Camera which included the Vaughan Williams Violin Concerto. This started off discussions which were to last throughout the forty five years we knew each other! Richard was appointed Conductor of the Birmingham Bach Society Choir in 1966 and commenced his work in the September. I joined the Choir three weeks later. It was in 1968 that Richard asked me to consider being Secretary of the Bach Society and of course, I could not refuse and my life was changed for ever! It was in that year that Richard introduced me to the Aldeburgh Festival (I still have the programme) and thus started my deep life long affection for Suffolk. ... MORE


Other tributes

Many other tributes have been paid to Richard Butt by friends, colleagues and people throughout the classical music world. Please click HERE to read a selection of them.

If you would like to share your own personal tribute or memory with us, please simply send an email to our webmaster.


Richard Butt
Richard Butt
Conductor of the Birmingham Bach Society 1966-1992

Birmingham Bach Society rehearsing, with Orchestra da Camera and Richard Butt conducting, for a concert in St Paul's Church, Birmingham in October 1967
Birmingham Bach Society rehearsing, with Orchestra da Camera and Richard Butt conducting, for a concert in St Paul's Church, Birmingham in October 1967

Richard Butt conducting
Richard Butt conducting in the Adrian Boult Hall during the 1980s
© Charles Bartholomew

A red rose on Bach's grave in Leipzig, placed in memory of Richard Butt by ex-choir-member Robert Stevenson on 28 October 2010