Hugh Hanson Davidson, administrator, broadcaster, composer, writer (born 27 May 1930 in Montréal, QC; died 14 July 2014 in Victoria, BC). Hugh Davidson began his career as a pianist and composer before becoming a prominent music administrator. He worked for CBC Radio’s English and French networks before serving as music administrator of the National Arts Centre, head of music at the Canada Council and cultural councillor to the Canadian High Commission in London, England. He was also a consultant for Expo 67 and the Centennial celebrations. In his later years, he commissioned new works for the Victoria Symphony by such composers as R. Murray Schafer and John Estacio.
Early Years and Education
Davidson began piano lessons at age seven and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1945 to 1948 with George Crum (piano) and Godfrey Ridout (composition). His Three Preludes for piano won a 1946 CAPAC award. He went to England in 1951 and continued his composition studies with Bernard Stevens and Humphrey Searle. In 1955 he returned to Montréal, where he worked as a composer and studied orchestration with Neil Chotem.
Radio Broadcasting and Arts Administration
He joined CBC Montreal in 1956, serving first as a radio producer for the English network, then as supervisor of music for the French network (1962–65). He worked as music coordinator for the CBC-IS in 1965 (see Music at the CBC) before becoming assistant program director of the English radio network in Toronto. He was seconded to the BBC in London in 1969 and returned in 1971 as music administrator of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He was head of music at the Canada Council from 1973 until 1978, when he was named cultural councillor to the Canadian High Commission in London. He then served as general manager of the Canada Council's Touring Office (1981–88) before moving to Vancouver and eventually Victoria, where he was active as a consultant to various arts organizations, most notably the Victoria Symphony. He served on the board of the Victoria Symphony Foundation and commissioned new works on behalf of the symphony, including John Estacio’s Triptych (2009), Tobin Stokes’s Symphony No. 2 (2009) and R. Murray Schafer’s Figures in the Night Passing (2012).
Davidson composed piano works, ballets, chamber music, songs, choral works and incidental music for the theatre. His more notable works include His Eminence of England (1953, for the Canterbury Coronation Festival) and Cymbeline (1954, for the Bristol Old Vic). Radio Canada International released a recording of his Divertissement for three winds in 1958.
Writing and Consulting
Davidson wrote music reviews for the Montréal Gazette and the magazine Music and Musicians, as well as program notes for the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the Pro Musica Society of Montréal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He was assistant editor of the journal of the Jeunesses musicales du Canada (JMC) from 1956 to 1960, and a founding member of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ). He also served as music consultant for the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 67 and head of the music selection committee for Festival Canada during the Centennial celebrations.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.