Almost without exception, music is a collaborative art. No matter what the style of music you love or where it is being played, it is manifested by multiple artists. This may be the product of the musicians performing, the audio team who provides amplification, or any number of other skill professionals who dedicate themselves to this powerful artform. Peter Davison has immersed himself in the world of music since his youth and recently found his talent being utilized by arguably the most recognizable and successful composer of our time, the prolific Danny Elfman. Peter collaborated with Danny as his orchestrator for a number of projects including an LA Chamber orchestra performance, percussion and cello concertos which premiered with the London Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Orchestras, and the performance of “Wunderkammer” by the National Youth Orchestra of BBC Proms 2022. Nominated for multiple Oscars and BAFTA awards and a Primetime Emmy Award-winner, Danny Elfman has created the most memorable film scores of the past few decades including: Batman, Alice in Wonderland, Mission Impossible, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Good Will Hunting, Terminator Salvation, American Hustle, and the iconic Simpsons television series. His instantly recognizable creations are enabled by his orchestrator as Mr. Elfman famously professes to not read music. As his most recent orchestrator, Peter Davison used his expertise and talent to fulfill a childhood dream of working with one of the greatest composers of the era.
As a wide and far too general definition, an orchestrator is a communicator. This role is focused on taking the ideas of the composer and communicating them via written music to the ensemble performing them in a detailed manner, avoiding confusion and maximizing efficiency. That sounds very clinical which is not at all an appropriate description. Peter sees his role as informing Mr. Elfman of the practicality of the music and describes, “When you’re orchestrating for Danny, his ideas are full and the piece is complete. Danny often facetiously will say he doesn’t read music; I know this not to be entirely true as I have seen him follow through the score with me. It may not be his preferred method, however he is an incredible musician. When I receive the sketch score, my job is to feedback to Danny issues of playability, and also how it is rehearsed. When recording in the studio, you can stop and capture many takes but in a concert performance it has to be played all the way through, and often there are limitations in terms of rehearsal time. My job is to make sure that the orchestrations are detailed and that problems are limited when they come up in rehearsals as this takes time to resolve.”
A UK native, Peter was pleased to work with Danny on “Wunderkammer” as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain is a source of national pride. Scrutinizing the voicings and arranging woodwind parts for the one-hundred-fifty-piece orchestra was a sizeable task for Mr. Davison but one which was offset by the immense enthusiasm displayed by the young musicians excited to perform this piece. Elfman and Davison accompanied the Youth Orchestra on their tour to witness their repeated performances of “Wunderkammer” under the direction of conductor Andrew Gourlay. The tour concluded with a performance at the BBC Proms, a century old premier classical music event. Beaming about the experience, Peter Davison espouses the virtues of music as a conduit for different generations to share an emotional space. He remarks, “The first night Danny arrived at the halls of residence at the University in Newcastle, I suggested we pop in to the dining hall where the youth orchestra members were having their evening meal. Spontaneous applause and whooping occurred when we entered. Danny has that effect on people. I’ve been a fan since my youth and his music is certainly timeless. I blame him for the fact that my kids are obsessed with A Nightmare Before Christmas and demand it be the only thing we listen to in the car. They were both quite excited to meet him backstage at a performance and I completely get that.”