Edward Davis ’12 was not always interested in composing, but musical excellence runs in his family. He was recently commissioned to compose and conduct a piece for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Children’s Choir to be performed in May 2015.
2015 marks his father, Sir Andrew Davis’, 40th anniversary of conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The TSO was looking for a commission and someone on the board asked Davis’ father if his son could send in some pieces.
“They have two orchestral works and they wanted the third to be a new work for the orchestra plus the children’s choir, because my dad helped found the Children’s Choir shortly after his first performance there,” Davis said. “I sent in my best stuff and then I got a call a few weeks later and they said, ‘We like your music a lot and we think it would be cool to have a father-son thing, so we’re going to go with you. Congrats.’”
Davis’ piece will be performed with a bill that includes a Cello Concerto by Edward Elgar featuring Yo-Yo Ma. His own piece is in the brainstorming stages. Since it will be performed by child vocalists, Davis is considering Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and “The Stolen Child” by William Butler Yeats as possible influences. He is used to composing from poems — one inspired by Emily Dickinson’s “Wild Nights” was performed by the Knox College Choir in 2012.
“I can use as many or as few of the instruments of the orchestra as I want,” Davis said. “It can be just the Children’s Choir and a few strings, or it can be them and the whole force of the Orchestra … a lot is still up in the air right now.”
Currently, Davis is in his first year pursuing a master’s in composition at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is also the Composer in Residence of the Chicago Chamber Choir. His senior year at Knox was spent on an Honors project which composed a Catholic mass for a’capella singers but, despite having a conductor for a father and a retired opera singer for a mother, he was not always interested in being a composer.
“I kind of avoided doing music for a long time. I came to Knox to pursue a degree in creative writing,” Davis said. “When I grew up I was of this mindset that I would never be as good as either of my parents … then I came to think that even if I don’t become as big as [my father is] I still love doing it either way. My parents have been nothing but encouraging ever since.”
There is still much to do between now and Davis’ May 2015 concert, but he is up for the challenge.