Tino Valdi obituary

Other lives: Singer who was a member of Bruce Forsyth’s variety touring show in the 1950s

My friend Tino Valdi, who has died aged 90, was a singer and member of Bruce Forsyth’s variety touring show in the late 1950s and once shared the bill with Max Miller. Known as “a new voice from Italy”, he appeared on many radio and television programmes throughout the 60s and 70s, as well as in concert halls at home and abroad. He performed on two transatlantic liners, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, and recorded six albums.

Tino was born Volodymyr Luciw in Nadvirna in Ukraine to Gabriel, a butcher, and his wife, Yulia. When he was a teenager during the second world war, Ukraine was invaded by the Nazis and he was deported to Germany as a slave labourer. He remained in the country after the war and met a fellow Ukrainian, the musician Hryhory Nazarenko, who encouraged him to play the bandura, their homeland’s national instrument, in his Bandurist Leontovych Capella group.

Tino left Germany in 1948 and moved to Britain, where he found a job as a wool spinner at Salts Mill, Bradford. He and I met in 2015 when I was doing some research into textile-related words in everyday usage.

In Bradford Tino took singing lessons, then went for further voice training in London and at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. When he returned to Britain he adopted the stage name Tino Valdi at the start of his show business career. British audiences initially knew him as an Italian singing star on account of his recent arrival from Rome.

In 1961 he represented England at the third Coupe d’Europe international singing contest held at Knokke-le-Zoute in Belgium. The team was made up of Dick Francis, Kathy Kirby, Ken Kirkham and Tino, and they became the first English entrants to win the tournament. Tino was commended by the judges as having “a voice like velvet”.

Following a health scare in the late 80s, he was advised to stop singing. But instead of putting his feet up, he organised several dance and choir group tours. He also established a charitable foundation in Nadvirna to support young people in Ukraine.

For his contribution to the promotion of Ukraine’s heritage he was awarded the country’s Order of Merit, second degree, in 2008, and on his 88th birthday was presented with a British Music Hall Society lifetime achievement award.

He met his wife, Lesia (nee Nesterczuk), a Frenchwoman of Ukrainian heritage, in 1956 when she was deputed to give him a bunch of flowers at the end of a concert in France.

She survives him, as do their three daughters, Anne-Marie, Oksana and Ivanka, and several grandchildren.

Eugene Nykolyszyn

The GuardianTramp

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