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International Praise for South African Composer

10 Oct 2014 - 12:00
Dr Martin Watt.
Dr Martin Watt.

Dr Martin Watt has a very impressive resume. He is an internationally respected composer, a musicologist, senior lecturer at the South African College of Music and a recipient of a Fellowship of the Trinity College of Music In London. More recently, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, in London. He is one of very few South Africans who hold this Fellowship. 

The Royal Society of Arts was established in 1754 and previous Fellows include Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx and Steven Hawking. The current patron of the society is Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the president is the Princess Royal, Princess Anne. Dr Watt was awarded the Fellowship based on his role in convening music literacy courses as part of the South African College of Music’s BMus Foundation programme, which is aimed at talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Fellowship was also extended to him in recognition of his contribution to South African music as a composer of contemporary art music in a developing country.

“In August this year, over 800 audience members at the 7th La Guitarra esencial Festival in Millstatt, Austria, gave me the greatest surprise of giving a standing ovation at the premiere of my cabaret production of Die Burenhochzeit (The Boer Wedding). I also held the title of official artist in residence at the festival, and I have been very fortunate to have been invited to stage the performance again in Linz and Vienna later this year” says Dr Watt.

Additional international successes include his choral work, O Sacrum Convivium, which was selected from 170 world-wide submissions to be performed at the 2013 Conference of the National Collegiate Choral Organization in Charleston, United States. It later went on to be published in their “Choral Literature Series” for international commercial distribution. Other compositions of Watt’s original work, such as his second Violin Sonata and his second String Quartet were published by the internationally peer reviewed scholarly journal, the International Journal of Contemporary Composition in 2013 and 2014 . In 2013 he was elected as a full member of the South African Academy of Science and Arts (M.Akad.SA), an 800-member multidisciplinary organisation. Members are elected by virtue of distinguished scientific, technological or cultural achievement, excellence, peer recognition and productive involvement in contribution to areas of research, education or art.

Dr Watt is an alumnus of the University of Cape Town having obtained his Masters degree in Composition (Cum Laude) under the South African College of Music’s renowned Peter Klatzow, in 1993. He has composed over 50 works, many of them commissioned by prominent organisations and performers. His music has been performed, broadcast and recorded in South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, China, Thailand, Japan and the United States. He is also an active musicologist.

Not one to 'sing' his own praises, he does however, acknowledge the importance of sharing achievements within the University of Cape Town community . “ It is important that the South African College of Music extends its national and international reputation so that we can position ourselves as an institution of excellence. I am also very grateful to the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust for their generous financial contribution which made my many international visits possible “ says Dr Watt.

This article originally appeared on the UCT Humanities website.