Dana de Waal – musical director

Dana de WaalIt was a nailed-on certainty that Dana de Waal wouldn’t be able to follow through his pledge never to sing in public again when he arrived in England 14 years ago.

The musician, who was once dubbed the South African Pavarotti, was an internationally acclaimed singer and composer in his homeland and performing was his raison d’etre.

Despite that, he and his wife Anne – herself an accomplished pianist – decided to uproot their life and move to the UK to give their children the chance of a better life.

“As I said goodbye to the life I knew I told everyone I was never going to sing in Britain. I just didn’t want to have to start again,” explained Dana solemnly.

“But within weeks I felt I could just cry because I so needed to open my mouth and sing. It was utter, utter madness to think I could give it up.

“Just a couple of months after we moved into a home in Beeston the Carlton Male Voice Choir were looking for someone to do a slot and they asked me if I could do it and I said yes.”

It was the start of a life in which Dana and Anne have combined their talents to bring out the best in others through teaching and directing choirs as well as composing and performing themselves.

The tenor became animated as he started to talk about teaching and as he moved to the edge of his seat and gestured excitedly with his arms it was clear just how passionate he was.

“I had wonderful teachers and I realised that what I wanted to be able to do was give that to other people. I don’t always want to work with professional people and I enjoy working with groups who have music in them but are not trained.

“I have always wanted to stand in front of an orchestra and sing and I want to enable others to do the same.

“I have said this so often: Music is something that is given to mankind – not to individuals. It is for us all.

“I can honestly say that the pleasure I feel when I perform is now matched by the pleasure I get when someone tells me that their lesson made them feel good.”

Dana now lives in Breadsall and is musical director of three choirs, The Fishpond Choir of Matlock Bath, The Duffield Singers and The All Saints Singers from his village.

His patronage is much sought after and proudly lauded by those groups who were lucky enough to have signed him up in those early days.

He and Anne are affectionately referred to by choir members as ‘The Brains’ behind the very accomplished Fishpond Choir – famous for its love of African music and eclectic repertoire of world music.

Dana now counts a performance by the choir at the Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert in the Royal Albert Hall as one of his career highlights.

You can see the Fishpond Choir at Alstonefield Church on November 29 and The Glebe Centre in Crich on December 13. For more information go to http://www.danadewaal.co.uk

This feature is in the November issue of artsbeat which is out now.