Summarized by Kent Larsen
Founder of Southern California Mormon Choir Dies
Los Angeles Times 19Jun00 P2
By Myrna Oliver: Times Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- The founding conductor of the Southern
California Mormon Choir, H. Frederick Davis, died Tuesday, June 13th
at his home in North Hollywood, California. Davis was the conductor
of the Choir for 28 years and of the Ellis-Orpheus Men's Chorus.
Davis was 91.
Davis was born in Tonga and educated at the University of Auckland in
New Zealand before he moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he worked
with Mormon singers. After he moved to southern California, Davis was
asked in 1951 to put together a 300 voice LDS choir to sing at the
Hollywood Bowl. The choir was successful, and was then asked to sing
for an Easter sunrise service at the Hollywood Bowl. Further
invitations led Davis and others to form the Southern California
Mormon Choir in September 1953.
The choir was the first of a number of regional Mormon Choirs that
have been created. Other regional Mormon choirs exist in Arizona,
Colorado, Washington DC and in Richmond, Virginia.
The Southern California Mormon Choir then began, starting in 1953, a
tradition of presenting Handel's "Messiah" each at Christmastime each
year. And in the 1960s, the choir became the only founding member of
the Music Center of Los Angeles County, allowing it to move its
sell-out performances of the "Messiah" to the Dorothy Chandler
Musically, critics were impressed with the Choir that Davis created.
In 1979, a reviewer in the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Davis once again
welded his 94 singers into a remarkably flexible choral ensemble
capable of coping with the most difficult Handelian challenges with
poise, vitality and textural clarity."
Davis took over the Ellis-Orpheus Men's Chorus in 1952, at about the
same time that the Mormon Choir was formed. The Ellis-Orpheus Chorus
had its origins in the Charles Ellis Singing Club formed in 1888 and
the Orpheus Club started in 1905. The two later merged, and Davis
conducted the group for some four decades.
Early on the Times credited Davis with rejuvenating the Choir, saying
that he "brought with him a good background of professional
experience well suited to raise the caliber of an amateur group."
Twenty years later, the Times credited Davis with success. In an
interview with the Times in 1988, Davis himself acknowledged that the
group had improved, "The precision in the group is much better now
than it used to be. When I first took over in 1952, the members
weren't interested in technical perfection. They just wanted to have
In addition to conducting the two choirs, Davis won honors from
California musical organizations and a Utah state proclamation that
called him a "truly great pioneer in the field of music." He was also
a voice teacher and composer and active in the American Society of
Composers and Conductors, the National Assn. of Teachers of Singing
and the California Federation of Music Clubs.