Victor Davies | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Victor Davies

Victor (Albert) Davies. Composer, pianist, conductor, b Winnipeg 1 May 1939; B MUS (Indiana) 1964; hon LLD (Manitoba) 2007.

Victor (Albert) Davies. Composer, pianist, conductor, b Winnipeg 1 May 1939; B MUS (Indiana) 1964; hon LLD (Manitoba) 2007. Davies began piano and violin studies in childhood, sang in church choirs, played in jazz and rock bands, took courses with Ronald Gibson and Peggie Sampson at the University of Manitoba, and studied composition at Indiana University. He led and composed for a 'third-stream' jazz ensemble 1968-70 and attended Pierre Boulez's 1969 conducting class in Switzerland.

Victor Davies was organist-choirmaster in 1959 at Wesley United Church, Winnipeg, music director in 1964 of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and composer, arranger, and conductor 1966-70 for CBC radio and TV. In 1970 he began to work as a freelance composer and arranger, and in 1977 he moved to Toronto.

One of Davies's earliest and most recognized successes was the Mennonite Piano Concerto. Commissioned by the B.B. Fast Foundation through Ben Horch, a Mennonite musician, it was premiered 27 Oct 1975 by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under Bill Baerg with pianist Irmgard Baerg, who later recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra (England) in 1983. Never one to limit himself, Davies has written over 600 songs for the CTV children's series "Let's Go" and "Rockets," and has received commissions from the CBC for the work Pulsations (1978); from the Contemporary Dancers for Anerca (1969); the Famous People Players for Animal Capers (1983); the Manitoba Theatre Centre for The Magic Trumpet (1969) and Reginald the Robot (1971); the Orford String Quartet for Fun For Four (1980); the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for The Big Top (1985); the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for several pieces including Celebrations (1969); From Harmony (1968); A Short Symphony (1974); Jazz Piano Concerto (2001); Wayne Marshall for Jazz Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (2000); and the Yukon Arts Council for Yukon Scenes (1985/1997), among others. The Musical Circus was commissioned by Soundstage Canada '81, which performed the work in Eastern Europe.

Revelation, a major oratorio using texts from the Bible's Book of Revelation, was premiered in February 1996 by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Mennonite Oratorio Choir under Bramwell Tovey; it went on to be performed in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Hamilton. Davies composed, oversaw and produced the music for the Pan American Games in 1999. He has also written much for the stage, television and film including The Last Winter (1990), The Nutcracker Prince (1991), The Nature of Things (2002), For the Moment (1994), and a workshop of his musical The Importance of Being Ernest was performed for the Stratford Festival in 2005. Davies has conducted his music and that of others with the Winnipeg, Edmonton and Kitchener-Waterloo symphonies, as well as in the studio. In 2002, he won a Gemini Award for Honour Before Glory.

A self-confessed populist, Victor Davies expresses a fundamentally optimistic disposition in 'happy, cheerful, uplifting music' (Canadian Composer). While fluently employing a wide range of historical and contemporary forms and techniques including twelve-tone, aleatoric, jazz, and popular music elements, Davies strives for simplicity and elegance, rejecting as 'socially irresponsible' the pursuit of the 'clever' or 'different' for the sake of academic approval. He feels that artists must have 'utility in the community,' and their music must embody 'melodies that are memorable, something that is cherishable' (Mennonite Mirror). His music is known for being rhythmically vigorous, well orchestrated, and readily accessible.

Davies is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He was president of the Canadian League of Composers 1979-82 and began to sit on the board of directors of SOCAN in 1997. Some of his papers are held by Library and Archives Canada, and others regarding the Mennonite Concerto and Revelation are held in the archives of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.

Selected Compositions

Music Theatre and Multimedia
Let Us Pay Tribute to Lord Gordon Gordon, opera (G. Weatherhead). 1968. 20 soli, orch. Ms

The Magic Trumpet, children's musical (V. Cowie, Davies). 1969. Golden Toad Music, Turnstone Press 1984 (libretto)

The Beginning and End of the World, multi-media. 1971. Orch, organ, boy's chorus, planetarium. Ms. 1971. Omni 1001 (Skitch Henderson conductor, members of the Winnipeg SO)

Reginald the Robot, children's musical (V. Cowie, Davies). 1971. Golden Toad Music

Beowulf, rock opera (B.J. Wylie). 1974. Ms. 1974. 2-Daffodil DAFF-10050/3-Leap Frog LR-1-83 (Chad Allen, Holiday Festival Singers, members of the Winnipeg SO)

Seize the Fire, theatre (D. Unrau, based on Blake). 1976. Ms

The Curse of Ponsonby Hall, children's musical (V. Cowie, Davies. 1979. Golden Toad Music

Especially Babe, musical (M. Shamata). 1979. 6 singers, piano, clarinet (saxophone), double-bass, percussion. Ms

The Musical Circus, musical entertainment. 1981. Sop, dancers, musician-actors, instr ensemble. Ms

The Pit, soundtrack. 1981. Golden Toad Music

... and When They Shall Ask, soundtrack. 1983. Ms

The Big Top, ballet. 1985. Orch. Ms

Canada Heritage, musical entertainment. 1986. Chor, instr ensemble. Ms

The Last Winter, soundtrack. 1989. Ms

The Nucracker Prince, soundtrack. 1990. Ms

Tooth Fairy Where Are You, soundtrack. 1991. Ms

Pirates! 1994. 11 cast members or more, with synthesizer accompaniment

Many other theatre pieces, incidental music, and orchestrations. Some songs for the TV series 'The Rockets' and 'Let's Go' recorded on Leap Frog LFR-1979

See also Anerca


From Harmony... (Dryden). 1968. Narr, orch. Ms

Celebrations. 1969. Ms

A Short Symphony. 1974. Ms

Pulsations. 1978. Elec violin, orch, piano, bass guitar, elec guitar. Golden Toad Music 1978. Pro Arte CDD-368 (Polson)

Good Times. 1979. Str orch. Ms. Water Lily WLCD-5995 (CD)/Campion RRCD-1304 (CD) (B. Brott)

Genesis. 1982. Boys' or children's chorus (saxophone), orch. Ms

Animal Capers. 1983. Ms

Let's Talk: Conversations for Big Band and Orchestra. 1984. Ms

Jupiter Train. 1990. Ms

Suite from The Big Top. 1991. Ms

The Big Top Suite. 1991. From the dance (1985)

Dream Variations. 1995. Junior strings optional

Rhapsody - Four Dances For Strings. 1998

Opening and Closing Ceremonies Music from the XIII Pan-American Games. 1999. Golden Toad Music

Fireworks Music. 1999. For the XIII Pan-American Games. Golden Toad Music

Symphonic Marches. 1999. For the XIII Pan-American Games. Golden Toad Music

Heart of the Continent. 1999. Chorus and orchestra

Many arrangements of pop, show, and folk tunes.

Orchestra and Soloist

The Mennonite Piano Concerto. 1975. Golden Toad Music 1986 (2 pianos, 4 hands). Dueck Films PSC-101/Water Lily WLCD-5995 (CD)/Campion RRCD-1304 (CD) (I. Baerg piano, B. Brott conductor)

Hush-a-Bye-Hush the Christ is Sleeping. 1978, 2000. Soprano and orchestra

Revelation (an oratorio). 1996. Soprano, mezzo-soprano, 2 tenors, baritone, chorus, and orchestra. Text from the Bible, Book of Revelation

Yukon Scenes. 1997. Flute and orchestra

Concerto for Car Horns and Orchestra. 1997. Orchestra and 1997 Jaguar XK8 (pitches A & B), 1997 Pontiac Grand Am GT (pitches F# & A#), exact pitches not necessary. Golden Toad Music

Jazz Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (The St Andrew's - Wesley Concerto). 2000. Organ and orchestra

Jazz Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano concerto No. 2). 2001. Golden Toad Music.


Fun for Four. 1980. Str quartet. Golden Toad 1990. 1986. Pro Arte CDD-368 (Polson )/1991. Water Lily WLCD-5996 (Festival Players Canada)

Yukon Scenes. 1985. Fl, piano. Golden Toad 1991. 1991. Water Lily WLCD-5996 (Rudolph fl, Rogers piano)

Silhouettes. 1988. Pf trio. Golden Toad 1991. 1991. Water Lily WLCD-5996 (Polson)

Arrangements for piano trio of 2 Gershwin songs on Fanfare DFL-9021/Fanfare CDD-383/Fanfare DFCD-9020 (Sebastien); arr for cello and piano trio of 12 Gershwin songs on I Got Plenty of Gershwin Pro-Arte CDG-3321 (Rolston)

Art Deco Fantasy. 1994. Cello and piano

Continents. 1994. Flute, violin, cello, piano with additional percussion

Autumn Dreams. 1997. Cello and piano

Rhapsody - Four Dances for Strings. 1998. String quartet

For Jennifer - Remembrances. 1998. Violin, viola, cello, and piano

For Livia. 2000. Flute and guitar or piano, or piano solo


Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen and Yet Have Believed. 2000. SATB chorus. A capella

Children of the World. 1999. 1 - Two-part treble with piano accompaniment. 2 - Choir, soloists, and rhythm section, 2 saxs, 2 tpts, 2 trbs. Lyrics by Victor Davies. French lyrics by Gerard Jean

The Daffodils. 1999. SATB with piano. Text by William Worsworth

Lifting the Sky. 2001. SATB, piano, Salish drum, narrator. Text by Carolyn Maddux; from a traditional Salish story

Also choral works Celebrate Canada (1983, GVT 1986); The Holly and the Ivy' (arr, GVT 1989); for band URCAPO: Uranium Capitol Overture (1983); arrs for Harvey Pollack on The Whistler (1978, Colly TWVD-1) and Len Henry on Don't Give a Damn Kind of Man (1978, Downs DWNS-1000)


"Interview with Louis Applebaum," Spotting Notes, Fall 1996

"Interview with Eldon Rathburn," Spotting Notes, Spring 1997

Littlejohn, Maureen, Fortier, Marc, Davies, Victor. "Robert Farnon: Celebrating a Canadian pioneer," Spotting Notes, Winter 1997

"Interview: Glenn Morley," Spotting Notes, Spring 2004

Further Reading