Obituary: Arthur Davison
Tuesday 25 August 1992
THE CONDUCTOR Arthur Davison was born in Canada and came to study at the Royal Academy of Music: he stayed in Britain for over 40 years, making an outstanding contribution to musical life of the nation. He achieved a reputation for being unashamedly popular in his concert programmes with leading orchestras all over the country, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he had a continuous association going back nearly 30 years.
Moreover, he was instrumental in attracting shop, office and factory workers who had never attended a symphonic concert before to his popular 'Concerts for Commerce' series and the 'Arthur Davison Family Concerts' at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon, where he achieved something of the musical stature of a Sir Henry Wood.
Davison's work with young people led to his being appointed assistant to the conductor Clarence Raybould - and then as his successor - at the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, a link which extended over some 30 years. Moreover, his recordings of popular classics for the 'Music for Pleasure' label in the 1960s and 1970s sold in millions worldwide. In addition, he founded two significant chamber orchestras - the Little Symphony of London and the Virtuosi of England - as well as being the musical director and conductor of the Royal Orchestral Society for 35 years.
For nearly 15 years he was conductor and lecturer at Goldsmiths' College, London, while abroad he conducted the New York City Ballet, the CBC Radio and Television Orchestras, the Royal Danish Ballet and the Royal Danish Orchestras.
Arthur Davison was born in Montreal in 1918 and began to play the violin before he was four years old. He later studied under Camille Couture, a pupil of the great Ysagye, and then under Maurice Onderset at the Montreal Conservatoire. He also came under the guidance of Dr Wilfred Pelletier, conductor of the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York.
In 1948 Davison came to London on a pounds 40 Canadian government scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where he became leader of the student orchestra. From 1957 to 1965 he was a director and deputy leader of the London Philharmonic before deciding his main interest lay in conducting from the podium. His toe-tapping orchestral programmes may not have been to the liking of the avant-garde but they certainly filled the concert halls. His genial avuncular figure was much in demand, too, for his special Christmas concerts where he assumed the role of a musical 'Father Christmas' - without the beard and red cloak.
Davison married twice, first to Barbara Hildred, by whom he had three children: Darrell, himself a talented young conductor, Beverley, a gifted violinist and Lynne, a concerts manager. In 1978 he began an exceptionally happy marriage to Elizabeth Blanche, who survives him.
In 1974 Davison was appointed CBE for his services to music while the Royal Academy of Music made him a Fellow in 1966 and the University of Wales and Honorary Master of Music in 1974.
Arthur Davison used to tell the story of one of his early teachers the violinist Albert Sammons, whom Beecham discovered playing in a restaurant and made leader of his orchestra. When Davison went to pay him for a series of lessons, Sammons waved him away with the words 'Just pass it on'. Davison did just that.
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