EX CATHEDRA | Steve Davis - tenor

From our ‘Summer Music by Candlelight’ programme, June 2017

Steve was born in Birmingham and has lived all his life (so far!) in the area. His parents were both interested in music – his father was quite a competent pianist and his mother sang and played the violin. Both Steve and his brother were encouraged to take part in singing at school (in those days most schools did class singing as a matter of course), and Steve’s first experience of singing solo was at the age of about eight in a short children’s operetta at school. Steve had several attempts at learning to play the piano with a number of different teachers, but somehow always seemed to lack the coordination to master the art. At age eleven in his first year at Warwick School, Steve took part in the school show, which that year was the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Iolanthe. This entailed him going with his mother to buy a petticoat to go under his costume. Steve and a number of his fellow pupils were cast as the chorus of Fairies – photographic evidence is still available. Whilst at senior school he also started to learn the clarinet, but singing was his real love, and at age of fifteen was to appear once again in Iolanthe with a local am opera group, but this time as one of the chorus of Peers.

Steve met his wife Ann whilst a member of Solihull Youth Choir which was affiliated to the youth singing movement “Sing for Pleasure”, and it was with them that he first tried his hand at conducting, and subsequently formed his own choral society. It was also through his membership of the youth choir that Steve had his first opportunity to sing as an oratorio soloist, performing the Tenor solos in Messiah.

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

I have been a member since 1978 or 79, I can’t remember exactly when. I sang the tenor solos in Haydn’s Creation at King Edward’s School Camp Hill and a few days later received a phone call from Jeffrey inviting me to sing with Ex Cathedra for their next concert. He and some of the choir members had apparently been helping out in the chorus. I turned up at the next rehearsal to start to learn Monteverdi Vespers 1610 and went home afterwards in a panic as everyone else seemed so professional and I felt a little out of my depth having never heard of the work nor sung that style of music before. I did a lot of private practice during the next few days.

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

I retired last year, that is I stopped doing most of the paid work. As well as singing with Ex Cathedra, I was also employed as Librarian and was involved in the education work. I still do the ‘Singing Medicine’ project at Birmingham Children’s Hospital but now only sing with the choir as an amateur.

I don’t really have a typical day anymore. I’ve joined the gym and have a personal training session every week and try to go to the gym two or three times a week, and I also still conduct a choral society. We also try to have a trip out somewhere every week to visit National Trust properties or the like, and we do like to get away in our touring caravan as much as possible and walk and cycle.

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and & why?

That is quite a tricky question. There have been so many fantastic concert over the years, but I think that I can isolate three or four pieces that I have particularly enjoyed. Firstly, the Monteverdi Vespers which, having worked hard to learn, I came to love for the great variety across the movements, secondly Handel’s Dixit Dominus which is such a revelation into the great versatility of this prolific composer, with some fantastic choral writing, and last but by no means least, the wonderful Bach Passions, as over the years I graduated from back row of chorus to singing the part of Evangelist which I think gave me the most pleasure and satisfaction. I’ve now been relegated to the back row again.  

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

I don’t really consider it as guilty, but I love to listen to opera, particularly Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’ and Die Meistersinger, and at the other extreme, the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which I have loved since I was a child, and have performed in quite a few of them (the G & S, not the Wagner!)