About Carl Davis CBE

Composer and Conductor

Carl Davis has made an astonishing impact on music. He is the driving force behind the reinvention of the silent movie for this generation and has written the score to some of the most loved and remembered British television dramas. He is a conductor and composer of symphonic works, as well as a notable writer for the ballet.

Carl Davis CBE conducting

2019 saw the world premiere of two of Carl’s newly composed full-length ballets: The Great Gatsby, for a new production by Jorden Morris for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in February 2019, and the much-anticipated Chaplin: The Tramp for the Slovak National Ballet in Bratislava in March 2019.

A consummate all-round musician, Carl Davis works internationally in many spheres of music-making. Born in New York in 1936, he studied composition with Paul Nordoff and Hugo Kauder, and subsequently with Per Nørgaard in Copenhagen.

His early work in the USA provided valuable conducting experience with organizations such as New York City Opera and the Robert Shaw Chorale. In 1959 the revue Diversions, of which he was co-author, won an Off-Broadway Emmy and subsequently travelled to the 1961 Edinburgh Festival. As a direct result of its success there, Davis was commissioned by Ned Sherrin to write music for That Was The Week That Was. Other radio and TV commissions followed and Davis’s UK career was launched.

He moved to London in 1960 and soon found himself at the heart of England’s theatre, television, and film scene with scores for the National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company, the television series The World at War, Hollywood, Goodnight Mister Tom and the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.

Carl and Jean and Charlie the Basset Hound

Following on from his work on Thames Television’s Hollywood series, he created a score for Abel Gance’s epic film Napoléon, a performance so unique it stimulated a global revival of silent film performance with live orchestra. He has written or reconstructed scores for over 50 silent films ranging from Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton to DW Griffiths’ masterpiece Intolerance.

Carl is also a notable composer for ballet and has written scores for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Northern Ballet Theatre, working with choreographers David Bintley, Gillian Lynne, Derek Deane, and Daniel de Andrade.

Commissioned by the Halle Orchestra, Carl’s Last Train to Tomorrow, based on the story of the Kindertransport, premiered in Manchester in 2012 with a second performance in Prague in 2013 and a London Premiere at the Roundhouse, Camden on 9 November 2014 in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales.

In 2009 Carl created his own record label – taking full advantage of the digital progression of music. In 2015, the Carl Davis Collection included 27 discs on international and digital release.

And the future? More ballet, more films, concert works, stage musicals and music for children to perform – there is no end, only the beginning.