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Conductor and composer Carl Davis tributes after death announced

Conductor Carl Davis has died at the age of 86 it has been announced.

Davis was a well-known and hugely liked figure in the Liverpool music world, acting as artistic director for and conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Summer Pops concerts for almost a decade, usually decked out in flamboyantly colourful costumes.

In 1991, to mark the RLPO’s recent 150th anniversary, he co-composed the Liverpool Oratorio with Sir Paul McCartney, conducting its premiere at Liverpool Cathedral. The orchestra went on to tour the work, performing it at venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Davis was married to Liverpool actress Jean Boht for more than 50 years. The couple had two daughters – Hannah and Jessie – and three grandchildren.

A statement from his family announcing his death today said: “We’re so proud that Carl’s legacy will be his astonishing impact on music.

“A consummate all-round musician, he was the driving force behind the reinvention of the silent movie for this generation and he wrote scores for some of the most loved and remembered British television dramas.

“He was a conductor and composer of symphonic works, as well as a notable writer for the ballet.”

Davis was born in Brooklyn in October 1936 and moved to London in 1960, making his home in the UK.

Early composition commissions included the theme tune for the seminal TV show That Was the Week That Was, while his other scores for TV included The World at War, Goodnight Mr Tom and the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

He wrote or reconstructed more than 50 scores for silent films featuring stars like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, and his other extensive film work included the score for the 1981 movie The French Lieutenant’s Woman which won him a BAFTA.

Davis was also a notable composer for the ballet. His 2006 score for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cyrano was premiered at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

Above: Carl Davis on the Liverpool Waterfront. Photo by Mark McNulty. Top: Carl Davis. Photo by Trevor Leighton

He was made a CBE in 2005 for services to music.

In a tribute on the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s website, RLP artistic planning director Sandra Parr said: “Carl’s brain at work was something to marvel as I would sit and watch him writing the music to accompany so many silent films, with split second precision and painting colours in the music to match the mood of the story.

“Here at Liverpool Philharmonic we were treated to many “films with orchestra” including Ben Hur, City Lights, The Gold Rush and Safety Last as well as playing several of his own original scores.

His American heritage meant he knew many musicals and one of the highlights of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra touring was the month-long USA tour with Carl when the Orchestra performed City Lights 19 times around the East coast with performances from Florida up to New York.

“It was a challenging tour to work with vintage projection equipment but we always found a way to get through and laugh about things. Nothing delighted Carl more than a good giggle.

“Many of the recordings that Carl made with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Liverpool and for Leeds Castle in Kent are still played today by Classic FM and they all bring back very fond memories of working with a musical giant who changed the face of concerts in Liverpool forever.”


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