Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Friday, September 8

Davis? Davies? Or Mavis?

Synopsis

Today is the birthday of the British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who was born in Manchester on this date in 1934. Now, his name is spelled D-A-V-I-E-S, so most Americans tend to pronounce it "Day-VEES," even though "Davis" is the common British rendering of the name however it's spelled.

Once, when Sir Peter was in the U.S. touring with the BBC Philharmonic, a British journalist called a Las Vegas hotel where the composer was staying and asked to speak to Peter Maxwell DAVIS. The receptionist said there was no one there by that name.

Asked to spell the name, the British journalist did. "Oh, Day-VEES!" said the receptionist. "Sorry, there is no one registered by that name either." It turned out the hotel computer has somehow compressed Maxwell Davis into "Mavis" and THAT was how Sir Peter was registered. He found the whole incident so amusing that he wrote an orchestral tone-poem entitled "Mavis in Las Vegas," fantasizing that somehow he had a female alter-ego in that city, perhaps earning her living as a leggy Vegas showgirl. Well, stranger things have happened…

In addition to the whimsical "Mavis in La Vegas," Maxwell Davies composed a number of symphonies, concertos, and operas, often inspired by the bleak Northern land- and seascape of the Orkney Islands—a locale about as far removed from Sunset Strip as you can get!

Music Played in Today's Program

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934) Mavis in Las Vegas BBC Symphony; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, cond. Collins 1524

Additional Information

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