Carl Davis has been awarded a CBE (Hon.) for his services to music. This is just recognition for a major talent who, although a US citizen, has lived in the UK since the 1960s. There can be few music-lovers in the UK who have not been touched by his music and personality, whether by the wealth of film and TV scores, the ballet music, or by the lively and varied concerts he conducts up and down the country.
Carl believes strongly that all music has its place and this is reflected in his varied selection for concert programmes. From conducting in concert halls and improvised arenas to composing music for films, television series or silent films from the 1920's, ballets and musicals as well as an Oratorio, his versatility is extraordinary.
Born in New York, his early years of work in the States gave him a broad musical background on which he still draws today. In 1959 the revue Diversions, written with fellow college student Stephen Vinaver, won him an Obie (Off-Broadway). When Diversions was presented at the 1961 Edinburgh Festival, and subsequently transferred to London, Ned Sherrin invited him to compose for That Was The Week That Was; other radio and television commissions then followed - recent commissions include Promoted to Glory for Fremantle which was aired this past Christmas.
His musical compositions for television include the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, received with much acclaim world-wide. Other recent programmes, such as The Snow Goose, The World At War, Hollywood, Cold War, The Far Pavilions, The Naked Civil Servant, An Angel for May and Good Night Mr. Tom, are but a few of Carl's scores.
His feature film scores include The French Lieutenant's Woman, Champions, Scandal, Ken Russell's The Rainbow, King David, Widow's Peak, Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy and The Book of Eve.
He has composed a unique series of scores for restored prints of The Silents originally commissioned by Channel Four in 1980 with Abel Gance's Napoleon. In 1983 the French Minister of Culture awarded Carl the order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres after a screening of Napoleon in Paris. A further restoration this remarkable film was screened at the Royal Festival Hall in June 2000 with Carl's revised and extended score and will be screened again at the end of 2004.
Live cinema performances of other classic films continue to take place around the world. Recently, Carl has visited Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, Israel, USA, Canada and Malaysia to present one or more of the fifty "Silent" scores that he has composed over the last twenty years. In June, 2002, he premiered The Freshman with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at The Annual Silent Film Gala, presided over by Dustin Hoffman.
Carl's association with the London Philharmonic Orchestra has led to regular presentations of these classic films from the Silent era. Since 1997 they have included Ben Hur, Flesh and the Devil, Old Heidelberg, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Intolerance. The Crowd was shown in February, 2002 followed by The Big Parade in November 2002. On 12th April, 2003, Chaplin's Behind the Screen and King Vidor's Show People was shown at The Royal Festival Hall in London and on 28th, 29th and 30th November, a Chaplin Festival took place with the LPO again at The Royal Festival Hall: The Cure & City Lights; The Adventurer & The Circus and finally, The Immigrant & The Kid.
In 1993 Carl was invited to be Artistic Director and Conductor for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's Summer Pops Season, a position he held for eight seasons. As part of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's 150th anniversary celebrations, Carl and Paul McCartney together wrote a full length work entitled Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio premiered and conducted by Carl at the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool in June 1991 and subsequently around the world.
Carl has recently renewed his association with the RLPO and together they are presenting a number of popular themed concerts at venues not only in the North West, but also in other parts of the country, including Leeds Castle. And following their success in past years with Ben Hur and The General, the RLPO presented the Harold Lloyd comedy Safety Last.
With the Philharmonia Orchestra, Carl recently premiered his original scores for three of Charlie Chaplin's "Mutuals" - these short films are considered by many to be among Chaplin's best works. Recently, The General was presented to great acclaim, as was The Cure, Easy Street and The Adventurer in Toronto.
Carl has recently formed an association with The Opera Babes, beginning in the summer of 2003 at The Big Top in Liverpool. They then performed with Carl conducting The BBC Concert Orchestra and finally at the end of December 2003 with The Halle. Carl also recorded and released a hugely successful Christmas CD with the Halle last year.
During 2003, Carl presented live cinema in numerous cities, including: London, Manchester, Bedford, Birmingham, Eindhoven, Florence, Kuala Lumpur, Pamplona, Leicester, Liverpool, Luxembourg, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Utrecht. In 2004, he begins the New Year with visits to Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Pamplona, Barcelona, Florence and Holland to name but a few!
Carl's numerous recordings reflect the breadth of his musical enthusiasm. They include the scores for many of the silent films, for instance, Phantom of the Opera, which prompted one reviewer to remark: “[...] he has composed a lush score full of emotion. You'll want to rush out and see the film.”
Carl loves composing music for dance. His principle works include A Simple Man and A Christmas Carol for the Northern Ballet Theatre; The Picture of Dorian Gray for Sadler's Wells and Alice in Wonderland for the English National Ballet. The Scottish Ballet commissioned Carl to compose the music for the ballet Aladdin which had its première in December 2000. Recently he completed a one act ballet for Ballet Central's UK tour of Pride and Prejudice: First Impressions. This was based upon his original score for the Television series.
Carl has diversified into radio with his own show. He first recorded a thirteen-week series entitled “Carl Davis Classics” for Radio 2 in 1997. Due to its popularity, the BBC commissioned additional series, the ninth of which is presently being broadcasted every Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. on BBC Radio 2.
He made his debut in 1999 at the BBC Proms with a concert of film music with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Since 1983 Carl has been conducting the annual open air concerts at Leeds Castle and to commemorate these concerts he has recorded three albums, the Leeds Castle Classics in 1992, Classics for a Summer Evening in 1997 and A Classical Celebration for 1999. The two Leeds Castle concerts last summer proved even more spectacular than usual, quite apart from the fact that Carl celebrated 21 years of conducting at Leeds Castle! Also, he has been invited to conduct Proms in the Park with the BBC-CO in September, 2004.
Carl has also recorded many classical albums with various orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia. Particular ones with the R.P.O. feature his own compositions; they include The World at War, (a brand new version of The World at War was recorded in Prague during August, 2003); Pride and Prejudice and other Great Themes and, most recently, The Silents. At the beginning of May 2002, as part of the William Walton centenary celebration, Carl premiered Christopher Columbus - Walton's last major work to be restored.
He has been honoured on both sides of the Atlantic for his work as a composer and conductor. In 1992 he received an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University and in 1994 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by his old College in New York, Bard, and in July 2002 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music by Liverpool University for his work with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. On 11 May 2003 Carl was honoured with a BAFTA Special Lifetime Achievements Award for his contribution to the worlds of Film and Television and he has just been awarded Best Score for An Angel for May at the Ale Kino Film Festival in Poland.
Little wonder that Carl is becoming known by the new name of 'Flamboyant Genius'!
Carl lives in London. He is married to actress, Jean Boht and they have two daughters, Hannah and Jessie.