Robert Shaw, arguably the most influential American choral conductor of the 20th century, would have been 100 today.
He left us before I had moved from vocal jazz to a wider love of choral music, so I never had the chance to experience his legendary conducting, as so many of my colleagues did. Nonetheless, he has profoundly affected my work as an arranger and conductor, through his writings (remarkable letters), through my teachers (Alice Parker and Duane Davis), and through his music (recorded and co-written with Alice). Even now, I don’t think I have had a conversation about music with Alice that didn’t include her saying, “As Shaw used to say…”
Take a minute to celebrate his remarkable legacy with listening and reading. Here’s a favorite quote to get you started.
“You don’t join the Collegiate Chorale. You believe it. It’s very damn near a religion. It’s a way of life. Either you feel the fellow next to you is an important human being and you like him and you try desperately to understand how he feels about what he sings about, and pool your creative passions to make something a damn sight bigger than either of you could make alone–or this isn’t your kind of choir. Either the music you sing is torn out of you–or you ought not to be singing.” (1943)
Thank you, Maestro, for the wonderful push you gave to our profession.