The Australian Boys Choir’s focus on excellence in music education provides a solid foundation for many of our ‘old boys’ to continue studying music at university and move onto successful musical careers. Not surprisingly, their paths often cross.
Victorian Opera’s (VO) current production of Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ has been one such ‘path crossing’.
Derek Welton returned to Melbourne to play the evil Klingsor (and positively sparkled!). ‘Old boy’ Raphael Wong sang with VO’s chorus. Two of our tutors, Nick Christie and Jack Jordon, also sang with the chorus through the University of Melbourne. Former chorister William Clarke performed with the Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE). And our multi-talented Teacher-in-charge of Tyros, Tim Mallis, prepared the surtitles! It has been an incredible production and we were very proud to see our ‘boys’ involved.
The Performing Squad and Junior Singers were absolutely thrilled to have a visit from Derek during their Monday rehearsal. Derek shared his journey since joining the choir with the boys and then invited them to ask questions.
“How did you hear about the choir?” – “My teacher told me I had to join! But I loved it.”
“Did you ever go on tour?” – “Yes – to the USA.”
“What happened to the bright red hair you had last night in ‘Parsifal?” – “It wasn’t real – I was very pleased to remove the hair and makeup and the sparkly suit after performing in the heat on Sunday!”
There were many more questions answered with great humour before the boys were spellbound by a video of Derek performing in the Ring Cycle.
Thank you, Derek, for taking the time to share your inspiring story… and toi, toi toi for your next exciting role!
Following is Derek Welton’s story, included in our 75th anniversary book ‘75 Years, 75 Stories’, published in 2014.
Derek Welton’s music career has well and truly taken off, having secured a fixed contract with one of the major German opera houses, Deutsche Oper Berlin, starting in September 2015. Derek is the first to admit that it was his rigorous training in musicianship that gave him an advantage in the classical music industry, “especially”, he reflects, “compared to those who came to music later in life and didn’t have the sort of training one gets from organisations like the ABC”.
Derek began with the Choir in 1992 where the training fostered and developed his love for music, preparing him with the skills to master different musical styles, from Baroque to modern pieces.
“Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn’t do an undergraduate degree in music”. First beginning a law degree, Derek completed a BA in Linguistics and German before moving to the UK in 2006 to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he completed two Master’s degrees. Because of his ABC training he never once felt behind in his studies. Derek now works as a freelance singer, primarily in opera, and his work takes him all over the world. “Last year I worked in eight different countries and this year it will be seven. The travel is both exciting and tiring”.
And his workload does not appear to be slowing. In August Derek ill visit Australia to sing the bass solos in the Bach ‘Mass in B minor’ with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Another visit is planned in 2015 for an appearance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Despite a successful international music career, Derek still finds aid in the basics of his early music training with the Choir. “Every now and then colleagues see the many markings in my music scores and ask what the letters above the notes are! I still write solfege symbols in my scores sometimes so I can orient myself quickly with the key relationships and modulations when learning new music”.
The important things, it seems, never leave you.