Extensive Music Collection Donated in Memory of Dr Donald Davison
Before leaving Belfast Cathedral at the end of August 2021, Mr Jack Wilson as Assistant Director of Music and Dr Michael Callender, Chair of the cathedral’s Worship and Music Committee completed the task of cataloguing 1459 individual items of organ music which had been presented to Belfast Cathedral. This extensive collection was given to the cathedral by Mrs Rosemary Davison in memory of her late husband, Dr Donald Davison who died in August 2013.
The mammoth task, undertaken over the summer months, ensured that Dr Davison’s wide ranging collection of organ music, with manuscripts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is preserved at Belfast Cathedral and can be available to the cathedral’s organists.
Dr Davison was Reader in Applied Maths at Queen’s University Belfast and Head of the Department of Statistics and Operational Research at the university, but he was also a highly skilled and accomplished organist. At the young age of 19 Donald Davison was awarded his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organist (FROC). On completing his undergraduate studies in physics at Queen’s he was awarded a research scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, while Martin Neary was organ scholar (later to become organist at Westminster Abbey), and the composer Patrick Hadley was a fellow of the college.
In 1962, with a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry, Donald Davison returned to Queen’s to take up post of Lecturer in Applied Mathematics. In 1964 Donald was appointed organist at St Jude’s parish in East Belfast. From 1977 until his death, Donald Davison spent 36 years as organist and Choirmaster at St John’s Parish Malone. However Donald combined his academic and parish organist commitments with two further highly prestigious musical appointments.
For 21 years Dr Davison was Belfast City Organist. He worked tirelessly to promote with great Mulholland Grand Organ at the Ulster Hall with his popular lunchtime concerts. Dr Davison was also University Organist at Queen’s, playing the Whitla Hall organ at Summer and Winter Graduation ceremonies.
For the Church of Ireland he dedicated immeasurable hours as a member of the church’s Hymn Book Advisory (later Revision) Committee. He was also the meticulous editor of the 5th (2000) Edition of the Church of Ireland Hymnal.
Not only was Donald Davison an acclaimed recitalist, recording frequently with the Ulster Orchestra, but he was a highly accomplished improviser. He wrote a number of hymn tunes, and music for parish choirs, and had performed at St Paul’s Cathedral, and King’s College Cambridge.
As one who had dedicated so much of his musical life to service of the Church of Ireland, Belfast Cathedral is a fitting venue where Donald Davison’s extensive collection of significant organ manuscripts will be retained.
The Dean of Belfast expresses his thanks to Rosemary Davison for the generosity of her gift to the cathedral, and to both Dr Michael Callender and Mr Jack Wilson for the monumental task accomplished in cataloguing all 1,459 individual pieces. The full catalogue can be accessed through contact at Belfast Cathedral.