1892–1980

June 25, 1892, St. Jo­seph, Mis­sou­ri.

Ap­ril 20, 1980, Lit­tle­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Sleepy Hol­low Ce­me­te­ry, Con­cord, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

portrait

Katherine was the daugh­ter of Max­well Gad­dis Da­vis and Jess­ie F. Bar­ton.

She wrote her first com­po­si­tion, Sha­dow March, at age 15.

She gra­du­ated from St. Jo­seph High School in 1910, and stu­died mu­sic at Well­es­ley Col­lege, Mas­sa­chu­setts. After gra­du­a­tion, she con­tin­ued at Well­es­ley as an as­sist­ant in the Mu­sic De­part­ment, teach­ing mu­sic the­o­ry and pi­a­no.

At the same time, she stu­died at the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­to­ry of Mu­sic in Bos­ton. Da­vis al­so stu­died with Na­dia Bou­lan­ger in Pa­ris, and taught mu­sic at the Con­cord Acad­e­my in Mas­sa­chu­setts, and at the Sha­dy Hill School for Girls in Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia.

Many of her ov­er 600 com­po­si­tions were writ­ten for the choirs at her school. She is prob­ab­ly best re­mem­bered for her Christ­mas piece The Little Drum­mer Boy. Orig­in­al­ly titled The Car­ol of the Drum, she wrote it in 1941, and the Har­ry Si­me­one Cho­rale re­cord­ed it in 1958. Da­vis didn’t know of the re­cord­ing un­til she heard it on the ra­dio in De­cem­ber 1959.

Davis be­longed to the Am­er­i­can So­ci­e­ty of Com­pos­ers, Au­thors and Pub­lish­ers, and re­ceived an hon­or­a­ry doc­tor­ate from Stet­son Un­i­ver­si­ty, De­Land, Flor­i­da. She left all the roy­al­ties and pro­ceeds from her com­po­si­tions, which in­clude op­er­as, cho­rus­es, child­ren’s op­er­et­tas, can­ta­tas, pi­a­no and org­an piec­es, and songs, to Well­es­ley Col­lege’s Mu­sic De­part­ment, where the funds sup­port mu­sic­al in­stru­ment ins­truc­tion.

Her works in­clude:

  1. God Hath Made the World
  2. God Is in His Ho­ly Tem­ple
  3. Going to Beth­le­hem
  4. Leaning Last Night from My Win­dow so High
  5. Let All Things Now Liv­ing
  6. On Their Way I Met at Break of Day
  7. Our Fa­ther in Hea­ven
  8. Praise We Our God up­on His Throne
  9. Ring Bells in the Stee­ple
  10. This Day of Spring the Bird
  11. We Bless Thy Name
  1. Massachusetts, 1962