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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Tuesday, September 8

Davis? Davies? Or Mavis?

Synopsis

Today's date in 1934 marked the birthday of the late British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. 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 pronunciation.

Once, when Sir Peter was in the U.S., 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 had 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 high-kicking Vegas showgirl.

In addition to the whimsical “Mavis in Las Vegas,” Maxwell Davies often composed music often inspired by the bleak Northern land- and seascape of the Orkney Islands—an atmosphere as far removed from the Vegas Strip as you can imagine.

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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