A tribute to Sir Colin Davis from Gordon Pullin,
Director of the Kettlebaston Music Festival

Sir Colin came to several of the early Music Festivals, when he happened to be 'in residence' in Hitcham, and his daughters played the cello at his suggestion in at least three of them. After the Music Festival in 2003 he happened to say to me, 'Why don't you do the St Matthew Passion in that lovely little church of yours?' I was not sure how serious he was, but eventually took him up on it and said that I would provide all the singers and instrumentalists if he would conduct. I also said that we would not charge anyone to come to listen and would not pay any of the performers.  His reply was, 'What a crazy idea!  I'm game. You must dabble in the Black Arts to be able to assemble so many troops (It requires two choirs and two orchestras) for nothing!  But what an adventure!'

Two years later he had a space in his diary and we gave the two performances.  For many of the performers it was the musical experience of a lifetime: 'A wonderful performance - a truly moving experience'; 'I found the performances very moving indeed and it was a privilege to take part'; 'It was a great privilege to attend... and an experience i shall never forget.  It was both a religious and musical experience of the highest order. Even now I feel lifted out of the world'; 'It was one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life'; 'The combination of Bach, Sir Colin, Kettlebaston hospitality, good musicians and lovely people culminated in an experience I shall always remember'- to quote but a few of the letters I received afterwards.

(a full report on the 2005 performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion is still available - please click here)


The Guardian publishes the following obituary on 14th April 2013:

The president of the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis, has died.

Davis, who first conducted the LSO in 1959, died on Sunday after a short illness at the age of 85.

"He will be remembered with huge affection and admiration by the LSO and our thoughts are with his family at this time," the orchestra said in a statement on its website.

Davis became principal conductor in 1995 and remained in the position until 2006, after which he was appointed president. He was the longest-serving principal conductor in the LSO's history. "Sir Colin's role in British musical life was immense. Alongside his commitment to the LSO, he forged special relationships with the Royal Opera House, the BBCSO, and the English Chamber Orchestra, as well as mentoring many young performers and conductors at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School," the LSO said.

"He was internationally renowned for his interpretations of Mozart, Sibelius and Berlioz, and music lovers across the world have been inspired by his performances and recordings. His musicianship and his humanity have been cherished by musicians and audiences alike."

Minutes after his death, Davis's name began trending on Twitter. Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour party wrote: "Colin Davis made a historic contribution to music - in this country & worldwide. Condolences to his family". Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh soprano, was one of hundreds of fans who expressed their sadness. Classic FM announced they would play a selection of his recordings on Sunday night.

The conductor worked all over the world and received dozens of awards. Davis was made a CBE in 1965 and received a knighthood in 1980.

He was named a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the Queen's birthday honours in 2001 and also received the Queen's medal for music in December 2009 and was awarded the Commander of the Order of Dannebrog by the queen of Denmark in 2012. 

Born in Weybridge, Surrey in 1927, Davis also conducted the BBC Scottish Orchestra and Sadler's Wells Opera House. From 1967 to 1971, he was chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and became music director of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1971. Davis also conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle.

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