I never worked under Mr. Shaw; I came to the chorus the year he died. But in the 13 years I've been in the ASOC, his absence has never been more keenly felt than it is today, by those in our organization who knew him best. Mr. Shaw, whom I never knew ... but whose life and work are ineluctably tied to my life as a musician ... was a tireless champion of the music and the musicians; his passion for both was a fixed principle. During his tenure he was, reportedly, a thorn in the Board's side, to the extent that they attempted to get rid of him for various reasons, most notably when he insisted on programming the works of modern composers. His profound respect for the ASO musicians influenced his decision to hold chorus rehearsals outside Symphony Hall during the 1996 strike.
In the last years of his life, Robert Shaw was still following his quest for spiritual food through partaking of the arts, as his remarkable writings show. By the time of his death in 1999, the orchestra he had retired from in 1988 had grown in stature and renown.
Shaw anecdotes are a part of our preparation, courtesy of Norman, who tells the funniest ones; sometimes he sends Mr. Shaw's letters to us: "Dear People ..." -- like "Open Sesame" -- is a promise of riches beyond, a glimpse into the workings of a rare mind. Long-time chorus members, like war veterans around the dinner table, recall the old days, still wearing the stripes of whatever praise or chastisement Mr. Shaw felt called to heap upon them. These "Dear People" belonged to a particular time, having come together under the aegis of a particular man. We are lucky to have some of these stories posted on the blog.
Stephen Reed's From the Heart ... http://asocmember.blogspot.com/2012/09/mr.html
Andrew Gee's Together in Shaw-Speak
But even Norman who has, if anyone does, the indisputable right to address the chorus as he chooses, does not use that greeting.
Stanley Romanstein begins his most recent letter by invoking Mr. Shaw: "Dear People ..." Is he laying claim to the Shaw legacy by virtue of his choral directing experience? Does he see himself as Shaw's 'spiritual heir', appointed to lead both orchestra and chorus in this new era? Disappointingly, the President and CEO's letter amounts to a redacted statement regarding lay-offs and reshuffles in the organization. Stanley Romanstein has imperiously adopted us as his 'Dear People' -- in order to say virtually nothing at all.
Personally, I think the man who is largely responsible for ransoming the future of Mr. Shaw's beloved orchestra to a WAC-controlled budget sheet ought to think twice about drinking from what is, to the ASO and ASOC, a sacred vessel. It doesn't take writing on the wall to point out how seriously Dr. Romanstein has mistepped. Again. At the very least, he shouldn't be writing 'Dear People" to anybody because it makes him look desperate. (Although I have to say that he has been consistent in his inability to gauge the true opinions of the people he purports to lead; he concocts pretty pictures of mutual cooperation to the media and in the concert programs, while musicians are refusing to share the same air he breathes.)
Robert Shaw believed that appreciation of the arts requires "equal parts of modesty and vulnerability -- a preference for the small truth over the big lie."
Some people just get it wrong.