Moving tributes have been paid to a long-serving conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir, who has died.
Richard Butt, aged 82, was in charge of the organisation between 1966 and 1992 while also working as a producer for BBC Radio 3 at the former Pebble Mill site.
The much-loved figure was a devotee of the 17th century German composer, writing a catalogue of Bach’s cantatas which is still used by budding musicians today.
In his last years he had a series of unsuccessful operations on his knees which left him disabled.
He died of cancer at the Marie Curie Hospice in Solihull on Tuesday.
Paul Spicer, the current conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir and pupil of Mr Butt, described his former mentor as an inspiration.
He said: “I am deeply saddened by the death of Richard who was a close friend and mentor over some 30 years.
“Richard was and is an inspiration. He had absolute standards.
“I never honestly felt that I really measured up but I was eternally grateful for his faith in me and for his devoted friendship. I salute him, thank him and mourn him.”
When in 1966 Richard Butt was appointed as conductor and director of music at the then Birmingham Bach Society, it heralded a new era for the group.
It managed to pay off its debts while attracting more financial support from the Arts Council of Great Britain through the National Federation of Music Societies and West Midland Arts.
Through his links with the BBC and the Aldeburgh Festival – an annual classical music event held in the small Suffolk town – he attracted high profile soloists to perform in the city, including renowned soprano singer Emma Kirby and baritone John Carol Case.
He also counted famous singer and composer duo Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten – later Sir Peter and Baron Britten – as personal friends.The relationship led to Sir Peter becoming a patron of the choir, which was asked to sing at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1971.
Nine years later in 1980 he met Paul Spicer, who would eventually take over as conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir.
Mr Spicer added: “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. I also remember him phoning me when I lived in Herefordshire in, I suppose 1991, to say that he was going to retire from the Bach Choir and would I be interested in applying.
“I felt reticent about it but decided to throw my hat in the ring and some 18 years later I am still doing the job which he did with such distinction for some 25 years before me.”
Mr Butt is survived by his partner Stanley.
Interview with Julian Lloyd Webber: Review: Page 6