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For 50 years, our Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis never missed a season without appearing on the podium with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His consummate musicianship, unwavering devotion to our orchestra, and steadfast love for our city have impacted generations of musicians, audiences, and the broader TSO family and will continue to shape the identity of our community for generations. It is, therefore, with the utmost grief that we receive news of Sir Andrew’s death, who passed away in Chicago, Illinois, on April 20, 2024, at the age of 80, surrounded by his family. 

Born on February 2, 1944, in Ashridge, Hertfordshire, UK, he pursued his musical studies at the Royal College of Music and King’s College, Cambridge. His first significant positions were Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1970 and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1974–77). In 1975, he was appointed the TSO’s sixth Music Director, leading the orchestra until 1988 when he was named Conductor Laureate. Since his debut in 1974, he has made annual appearances with the TSO for the next 50 years. Throughout this half-century, he conducted approximately 1,000 TSO concerts at numerous venues including Massey Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, and Ontario Place. 

Under Davis’s leadership, a historic tour to China took place in 1978, followed by festival tours including Edinburgh and the Proms. Especially meaningful to Sir Andrew was the orchestra’s far north tour, including Inuvik, North West Territories. He also conducted many TSO concerts in Carnegie Hall. Other significant milestones include the Great Gathering (a concert to honour Walter Homburger’s 25 years as Managing Director), 33 recordings (including 3 Juno awards and 2 GRAMMY nominations), and the opening of Roy Thomson Hall as the home of the TSO in 1982. He also supported young musicians throughout his career, establishing close ties with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and encouraging the founding of the Toronto Children's Chorus in 1978, who performed frequently with the TSO. In addition to conducting, Sir Andrew also appeared in TSO concerts as organist, harpsichordist, and pianist, and served as an entertaining master of ceremonies and host (even in costume). Sir Andrew Davis was thrilled to share the stage with Music Director Gustavo Gimeno and the other former TSO Music Directors for the 100th season celebration: Maestros' Homecoming in April 2022. Other notable orchestral positions included Music Director of Glyndebourne Opera (1988–2000), Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1989–2000), Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago (2000–21), and Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (2015–19). 

As we cherish the memories from half a century of music-making alongside Sir Andrew, we will also remember a man of generous spirit, a husband, a father, and a friend—our thoughts are with his son, Edward Frazier Davis. Our thoughts are also with the throngs of international artists, managers, current and former orchestra members from around the world who have been sending their condolences. In celebration of his long association with our city, a small street near the home where he lived was named Sir Andrew Davis Lane in 2016. We invite you to keep him in your thoughts the next time you walk past this street, or hear the TSO perform at Roy Thomson Hall.

Rest in music, Sir Andrew Davis – and thank you.

Tribute to Sir Andrew Davis, TSO Conductor Laureate