Robert Lawson Shaw was born in Red Bluff, California on April 30, 1916 – another century, another America. By the time he died, 82 years later, Shaw had become one of America’s classical music icons – a key figure who helped create a culture of classical music in the United States.
When Shaw was a boy, there scarcely was such a culture outside of New York, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Yale University, and a few other places. And a classical choral tradition? It existed, but its existence was neither broad nor deep.
More than any other single person, Shaw was responsible for this change. He was the principle re-inventor of the choral art in America. Shaw did not transform choral music from a hobby or an academic pursuit all alone. But Shaw made choral music important, artistic, and popular.
Shaw is part of an American mythic tradition that encompasses Jay Gatsby, Leonard Bernstein, “American Idol,” and Barack Obama. Shaw was his own mold, an American prototype – like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mohammad Ali, Ernest Hemingway, or Clint Eastwood.
Deep River: The Life and Music of Robert Shaw is a rich and in-depth biography of this complex man and his relentless drive to transform American choral singing.
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