Vice-President: Alan Davis 1945- 2021
Alan would be known to many of us as a Vice-President of the SRP; I remember his phone call when he was invited to take the role, he was genuinely pleased. What brought him to that role, and his importance in the development of recorder and education in this country, will take much more than the 250 words I have been allocated for the e-news. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that he played an enormous role in the transformation of the recorder scene in the UK.
Alan was central to the careers of so many of us in the recorder world; he was our most influential teacher, and for many of us he became our mentor and a close friend. Many of us are forever indebted to him, he changed our lives, we mourn him deeply and will never forget him.
Alan was born in Birmingham 1945 and died on 25th October 2021, aged 76. In his early years he was very influenced by jazz and many of us will have happy memories of him skilfully improvising on recorders and soprano sax in the NORVIS bar, accompanied by friends. He played beginner piano, hating every minute, but enjoyed playing basic recorder at primary school and fell in love with the clarinet, studying at Birmingham School of Music.
He went on to Royal College of Music to study with Thea King, where his interest in the recorder grew, playing in a recorder quartet run by Stanley Taylor. He maintained this interest when he moved to Oxford University. While studying for his research MA at Birmingham University he took lessons with Frans Bruggen. The influence of Frans Bruggen on his playing and teaching was enormous, and in my view his understanding of the control of sound and vibrato, and the discipline in his approach to teaching it, was fundamental to his teaching.
I used to say that I can always hear in someone’s playing whether they studied with Alan Davis, there is something intangible in the sound! His memory was incredible, and his attention to detail in lessons…he could identify which edition you were playing from even though he hadn’t seen a score in years.
As well as his private work, he founded the Birmingham Schools Recorder Sinfonia in 1979 as a Saturday Group within the Birmingham Schools Music Service which still continues under a new baton. He developed recorder work at Birmingham Conservatoire, and taught at Chethams and Junior RNCM, where the recorder continues to flourish under Chris Orton.
In 1985 Alan was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. When I met him at NORVIS Summer school in 1990, he had very little sight left and he was registered blind in 1991. I recall a conversation with him last year in which he said that he never really got over the loss of his sight. He taught with us at NORVIS for around 40 years, having an enormous impact on recorder education through that course.
He leaves recordings he made with Trio Faronell and Trio Filidori, whilst his recording of the Handel Sonatas is exquisite.
As a composer he gave us beautiful music to play. He could compose and hold an entire fugue in his head and then dictate it to his amanuensis, Colin. I am grateful that he wrote so many beautiful works for my students, and the highlight of my career, as well as my proudest moment that I shared with him, was when my students were invited to play ‘A Curious Suite’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Schools Prom with the National Festival of Music for Youth. It was the first London performance of this truly wonderful work that he wrote for us, and we welcomed him on stage to rapturous applause.
Alan was a special man, he leaves a big hole in the music world, and a big hole in our hearts. We miss him. Deepest condolences to his widow Eira, his children Ruth, Mary, James and his grandchildren. Theirs is the greatest loss, thank you for sharing him with us.
Link to an online interview with Alan (August 2020), in case readers are interested.