A Tribute to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Published: 14 March 2016 Tags: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies By John Walding

Internationally acclaimed British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has died at the age of 81.

Sir Peter was a patron of LGBT Foundation and we would like to pay tribute to him for his long standing support over the years. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and loved ones.

Often cited as one of the world's greatest living composers, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was The Queen's former Master of Music.He revealed in October that the cancer he hoped he had beaten had returned.

Sir Peter grew in Salford in the 1930's and always believed himself to be a working class boy. He strongly felt that music should not be beyond the reach of anyone and began his studies at The Royal Manchester College and Manchester University.

Paul Martin CEO of LGBT Foundation comments: When we met Sir Peter he was 70 but looked at least 10 years younger. He was a tremendously inspirational person and was very keen that we keep him in touch about our work. He once sent us a cheque for the staff and volunteers to have a drink on him one Christmas ‘because of the amazing work we did’. He will be greatly missed by so many people, not only music lovers. Sadly yet another hugely inspirational LGBT figure from our lives has passed on. Everyone at LGBT Foundation would like to send our condolences to Sir Peter’s friends and family.’

We were fortunate to interview Sir Peter for Outnorthwest magazine in 2003 (extracts below).

How was 1950's University for a young gay man when homosexuality was illegal?

‘Being gay in the 50’s wasn’t really an issue for me. It’s true there weren’t many social outlets in general but I was surrounded by a group of people who were all into new music at the time. On the down side because no-one really accepted homosexuality there were tutors who took advantage of the positions they had over vulnerable young boys. I didn’t agree with this and had nothing to do with it.

Manchester was very grey at that time; I remember spending a lot of time in those days walking the streets with my good friend Tony Warren. Even then his observations of life were fascinating –he’d write everything down he heard and we wrote a musical together but it never got performed.’

Tony Warren said that the musical was ‘one of the happiest collaborations, I’ve done. Max did the music and I was rushing around with stories about young men, love, life, death, war etc. We quarrelled violently at the time but we always made up.’

Sir Peter soon began to travel the world and on leaving Manchester he commented ‘Even though things were a bit grim here regarding gay life, on the continent attitudes were much better. In 1953 I went to Germany and had my eyes opened. I had a lot of fun there’.

Known to most as ‘Max’, he composed some 300 works including symphonies and operas, which over the years covered a variety of musical styles. Having travelled the world Sir Peter moved to the Orkney Islands in the early 1970s. In 1987 he was knighted, and in 2004 he became Master of the Queen's Music. In the 2014 New Year Honours List he was made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for "services to music". Last month he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal.

Speaking about his commitment to LGBT issues Sir Peter told us:

‘It is very important to me that people have the freedom to be themselves. Anyone or anything that can help through education and information to improve people’s quality of life I will support and I believe LGF (now LGBT Foundation) does that. It was hard for me when I was younger and even though times have changed it is important that you be yourself and love yourself. If you think you’re ok you will have enough self-confidence to know you can share such a lot with others.’