Robert Shaw, In His Own Words
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        The Application and Adaptation of the
Robert Shaw Method: 
                        A Personal and Practical Strategy (c)
                                                             Nancy E. Harris. M.H.
Conclusions, Observations, and Musical Discussion Based upon Notes from
The Robert Shaw Choral Institute at Furman University, Greenville, SC, June 14-28, 1998
A.  Personal
B. The Institute

I. Timbre & Balance.............................................................................................5
A. Theory
B. Exercises

II. Rhythm & Tempo............................................................................................7
A. Theory
B. Exercises

III. Language........................................................................................................8

IV. Musical Interpretation...................................................................................9
A. Phrasing
B. Dynamics & Expression

V. Metaphors & Miscellaneous Thoughts.......................................................10

VI. Specific Musical References......................................................................11

VII. Closing........................................................................................................12



Although my undergraduate degree was K-12 Music Education, I am not directing a choir at this time. However, I do sing in a semi-professional choir in Denver, the Cherry Creek Chorale, under Brian Leatherman, who has sung with Mr. Shaw several times. My main focus is that of a soloist in choral, operatic, art-song, or musical-comedy settings.

I attended this workshop based on an experience 35 years ago. When I first saw Mr. Shaw and his chorale on tour in Tampa as a sophomore at the University of South Florida, I went into a kind of shock that such amazing things could be done with a vocal group. They were standing three or four feet apart in totally mixed formation, were obviously all solo voices, and yet they blended with such accuracy and purity that I was astounded! Ever since then, Mr. Shaw has been a idol of mine, an epitome that no one else could touch. Hence, the opportunity to study under such a great man was incredibly exciting to me.

After a long career as a professional church soloist and choral member, singing in a chorus under Sir Malcolm Sargeant with the Royal Philharmonic in Royal Albert Hall, doing a stint with the Schola Cantorum in California, and doing masters work under Dr. Barbara Doscher at the University of Colorado, my focus turned away from choral music to teaching private voice. Many of the techniques that Mr. Shaw espouses, I recognize as important and similar to those one uses in training young voices and coaching older singers for performance. (As an example, the advance use of the consonant is particularly important in German and English art songs.)

I've never completely left choral music, and have always attended the summer choral reading sessions put on by a prominent music conservatory in Denver under Dr. John Kuzma, based at the Montview Presbyterian Church. Dr. Kuzma brings in regional directors for each of the sessions, and when I worked under Brian Leatherman for one evening, I knew I could learn a lot from him, a feeling I'd not had for many years. So I joined his chorale in 1997, and have learned what I'd hoped to learn, the Shaw technique.

Choral singing has both advantages and disadvantages for the solo voice. The advantages are covering new literature, recapturing lost speedy sight-reading skills (not really required of the soloist), and the joy of the immersion in beautiful "surround sound". The primary disadvantage is potential warping of the voice when there are less-than-the-best voices in the group (especially if you have an excellent "blending" ear that forces you to sound like others around you). Many teachers of the solo voice frown upon their students' involvement with choirs for this reason. (My personal solution is to sit in the back row, where I can attempt to influence others positively without them influencing me negatively.) How nice for its members to have the opportunity to be free of that worry in Mr. Shaw's group!

As Mr. Leatherman uses as many of Mr. Shaw's techniques as possible with our choir, I feel quite at home with count-singing, dropping dots, placing consonants on the next rest, etc. My pleasure and learning in this workshop have come more from listening to Mr. Shaw's comments and metaphors as he explains musical energy and such concepts. I believe these to be applicable to both choral and solo singing, which is how I will use them.


When chosen to sing for this Institute, participants were told to learn their parts before arriving. After arriving, they were required to transfer Mr. Shaw's editing marks from prepared music to their own music, so that he would not have to take rehearsal time doing it. So this group was already far beyond the stage a normal choir would be in, to start with, to say nothing of their knowledge and skills as musicians.

Before rehearsals began, Mr. Shaw had the choir members vocalize for his assistants individually. They then assigned each a number, based on the weight of the voices. His assistants placed those numbers and names on the chairs each day in different orders, according to the type of work Mr. Shaw wished to do.

I feel that Mr. Shaw's comment, "I find it easier not to do everything at once," to be the primary focus of his rehearsals. After seating the group in two large concentric circles, he began with:

Timbre & Balance


Sing within the "sleeve" of the group, i.e. no individual voices should stick out. (I overheard two singers saying, "Singing out of the 'sleeve' is cause for a 'phone call,'" apparently something to be highly dreaded!)
"Sing very softly, as if you were on a bus and didn't want the person next to you to hear your singing. Choral sound begins from a piano sound and can then increase from there."
"Have the feeling that you are beginning with falsetto. Even basses in all registers use a quasi-falsetto."
"Try for the sound of boys' voices."
Mr. Shaw is looking for the overtone series, when the sound is at its best: "That's a lovely sound. I can hear the 12th above the octave."
"I don't like the word 'blend'. If you sing at the right pitch, right vowel, and right dynamics, one should be able to pick out what is wrong."
"Don't break over into another production."
"Gentlemen, don't try to high jump with your feet encased in cement blocks!You're carrying too much weight."


Not all of the following exercises are done at every rehearsal.This is a compilation.

Sing "oo" going down 5, moving up the scale.
Do an 8-beat crescendo on "ee" from p<f.
Sing "nee-aw, nee-aw" alternating.
Sing "noo-aw, noo-aw, noo" (beats 12, 34, 1234);same thing in 3/4 (1, 23, 1, 23, 123); pitch goes 1-m3rd,1-m3rd,1; 1-M3,1-M3rd,1, etc., chromatically up, usually to the 7th; and coming down in whole steps.
Split into octaves; sing "nee-aw" on minor 3rd, 4th, etc., starting on b flat.
On "ee" in a minor 3rd, crescendo and brighten from pp<ff to a brassy sound without vibrato; then confuse the pitch with too much vibrato; then color with vibrato, but don't confuse the pitch.
On one note: "ee ih ah eh".
On one note: "noo eh awe".
On one note: "oh-ah".
On one note: "me oh awe".
On one note: "noo oh ah" but change from one to the other imperceptibly;
Do the same as the prior exercise with the choir split into 2nds, then 3rds, 4ths, etc.
Take 16 beats to get to the crescendo on "noo ee ah" (increase to an ugly bright "ee").
Take 16 pulsed beats to move from f to f#; then reverse the process; men go down 1/2 step, women up; reverse the process.

After the second rehearsal, Mr. Shaw had the singers facing each other, turning around, circling the room, and doing other movements while singing and maintaining an even, blended tone with the rest of the group.(As mentioned before, he despises the word "blend". It is my usage, only.)

Each time he changed formation, even if during the same rehearsal period, he vocalized them on "noo ay aw" to orient them to the new positions.

At the fifth rehearsal, the group was in one giant circle, based on the numbering system. He then went through pieces very slowly, explaining his markings of 10 S, +1A, etc. He moved voices between parts based on the goal of perfect balance in the overtones, sometimes for only one note. Mr. Shaw is concerned that he not destroy the original voice leading of the composer, but moves the voices in such a way that it isn't known by the audience. The purpose is to keep the voices in the "sleeve" and easy, while strengthening specific chord structures.

While working on double-choir pieces, Mr. Shaw had each of the sections form a circle out of their large single circle, so that they could hear each other better. I noticed that, within each of the eight circles, the singers began to sway with the movement of their parts, something they'd not done when facing front.

Rhythm & Tempo

Before worrying about words or dynamics, Mr. Shaw is concerned that the group be exactly on count and understand the importance of time.I feel it is safe to say that, at least with this special group, it was his main concern.

"Music is the only true time art."
"There is no transference of discipline without accurate tempo."
"Saying 'How would he have written it to sound like I'm saying it?' is great for soloists, but to sing together, we have to get the rhythm first and add the nuances later."
"Count-sing everything first, because you can't tune if you are off even 1/100th of a second apart (1+2+T+4+).Use 'T' rather than 'three' because the 'thr' takes too long."
"Commas are always borrowed from the value you are leaving, not the one you're starting. You have to take the breath before the beat and come in on tempo."
"All quarter notes are not equal. Ending notes are shorter. You'll kill your entrances by holding the long note in the prior measure because the tones still float in the air. It always depends on the resonance of the performance hall."
"Sing poco staccato for accuracy."
"We have to be careful (on running 8ths) not to do like instrumentalists do and lean so hard into the first 8th, which delays the second."
"Even little notes get to vote! Meter energy is nondivisible; it is only multipliable, so put the energy of missing notes into the remaining ones (in this case, 16th notes)."
"Don't sing the dots...get off them."
"Forget line and focus only on the rhythm, as if you were a percussion instrument."
"Every time you breathe, you don't have the right to stop the tempo; our most elemental communication is rhythmic."
"Don't get behind the beat! You sound as if you're in a voice studio and expecting the accompanist to set the tempo, as if you have no responsibility for it!"
"I sense you're listening too much for someone to set the tempo. Make the tempo; don't wait for someone else to do it."
"I don't want to tell you to follow me, I want you to follow one another. Those are the little things that can't be conducted."
"If a piece is too complicated (such as the A.M.D.G. by Britten), there is no point in count singing. Do it on 'dah dah'."
"Use 'dah dah' on the 16ths (runs) to cut through the orchestra. 'Lah lah' takes too long; 'tah tah' cuts through too much; the soft 'dah dah' works."
"In a diminuendo, use a bit more staccato to maintain tempo."
"If you get momentum, it's hard to ritard, so select a place to begin a slower tempo and maintain it."
On legato passages in rehearsal, Mr. Shaw has his accompanist play quarter notes as four 16ths to help maintain tempo to the end, to continue the feeling of finality and forward motion.
"The tempo, or at least the final ten percent of it, depends upon the sonority of the room."
"Allargando comes out of the melodic significance," (so don't do it during choral speech).
"It's not only where the silence begins, but how you let the sound finish before that silence.  Allow it to complete."
To check the rhythm of the singers against the piano, Mr. Shaw once had them sing only the vowels of the piece ("ee-eh-eh-oh-ee" instead of "misere nobis").


Sing on vowels such as "doc". Invent language that uses lots of vowel sounds ('dee-ah, doo-ah") to avoid becoming tense.
Odd-numbered singers sing the text; even, sing the numbers; reverse.
Odd numbers sing "tee tee"; even, sing text; reverse.
Do the piece on "chick chick"; then "tee tee'; then double-time "tee tee"; then "teedle eedle eedle eee".
On difficult rhythms, sing "doo doo" staccato first, then legato.
Split into a chord (e g# d f#) and do the correct rhythm with the words; occasionally move the chord up or down a step for variety; then use the proper pitches and move a little faster.
"Stand up when you have the subject, sit down when you don't (on Bach). This time, when you have the fugue subject, bring it up to mp; if you don't, sing p."


Before dealing with expression and long phrases, Mr. Shaw wants the individual syllables to have character and identity:

"We're responsible for the sound and sense of each word. Accumulatively, we probably have a thousand years of bad habits to overcome!"
However: "We must allow the music to have its commentary on the text. Don't let the text slow us down."
"The problem is to get every sound of every word but not lose the metric flow."
"Each note is important. The consonants must be slightly ahead, so that the vowel is on the beat. Give the consonant an identity of its own. Each consonant sound has a beginning of its own; it isn't just stopping a sound. Think of each syllable as nonsense and separate to get this accurately."
"Each syllable has to have a beginning, a middle, and an ending."
"We have to compensate for reverberation by making even better definition of consonants and off-beat notes."
"In phrase endings, shorten the vowel and put the consonant (s, t, etc.) on the second beat (if a rest)."
"If it's so beautiful on 'doo', why do we need the text? It gives the composer an incredible kaleidoscope of color. You will lose a little line in the changes of the vowels."
"Put a 'd' in front of each note you sing."
"Make this an exercise in teaching a 2-year-old how to pronounce things."
"Final consonants have a schwa (International Phonetic Alphabet = uh) after them. Pronounce "concord" as "conuhcorduh". That clarifies it and allows it to cut through the orchestra."
"'Where' was originally spelled with the 'h' and 'w' reversed, which is how we pronounce it (hoowear)."
"Sing it slightly detached now; it won't be for performance."
"Don't seek for line now; seek for articulation. We'll get line, tomorrow."
"You need to feel the diphthong, as if we had time (which we won't), so practice 'time' as 'taheemuh'." "Pronounce 'life' as 'lah i eef' with long 'I'."
"On the 'm' of 'pacem', close to the hum one row at a time. Watch my fingers--first finger, first row; second finger, second row; third finger, third row; and fourth finger, fourth row."
"Consonants are only about 1/10 as loud as voiwels."

Musical Interpretation

As the singers show comfort and accuracy with the rhythm and syllables, Mr. Shaw begins to add interpretation of the music, not necessarily in this order, but as needed.

"When two notes are of the same pitch and duration, emphasize the first--the first note long, the second note short.'
"When in a run, groups of two are emphasized the same way (as the prior example)."
"In longer runs, do as groups of 3 + 3." (Depends on meter.)
"Everyone sing staccato at the rallentando, not for performance, but to identify the rallentando."
"In the Bach, do not fear overphrasing because other parts are continuing, or fear interrupting a word."
"16th notes at a beginning are emphasized, but afterward are leading to subsequent notes."
"There are only two or three possibilities for purposes of note groupings; for example: Departing-->Arriving; or Departing-->Passing Through-->Arriving. This has to do with articulation versus slurring. The longer notes (dots, ties) are Arrival or resting. Shorter notes tend to lead to them, and the notes that follow are beginnings (such as anacrusis). Sequence implies Arrival or a comma, as do interruption of adjacency and change of pitch direction."


"Almost never does the loudest part of a sound start at the beginning of the syllable, unless it is marked sf. It must grow for expressiveness, even if only an 1/8 note. Don't leave any tone 'unstirred'. Always, in every note and every phrase, either crescendo or decrescendo. The middle of a held note is the loudest (<>)."(called "bloom")
"In the first instant of a diminuendo, you can have 1/16 to 1/8 note worth of 'bloom' before the descrescendo."
"Save vibrato for expressive reasons. Casals always thought that vibration should be used for expression, using wide or narrow, fast or slow."
"Draw the sound; don't jump on it and push it!"
"No two milliseconds should have the same dynamics; the sound should crescendo or decrescendo through time and is constantly in motion in vibrato. It is never a given (static position)."
"Don't break over into a brilliant sound on a crescendo. See how far you can take this falsetto or head-tone quality. Crescendo within the "sleeve" of the group."
"They write it pp but you never get to sing it when with an orchestra. Get very dark, but sing mp instead of pp, as if scaring a bunch of cub scouts with a ghost story."
"Precision starts from piano; add dynamics gradually.
On an a cappella piece: "Go after the forte sound that doesn't sound fractured. Don't push into the 20th-century sound that has to carry over lots of instruments. Maintain the same tone color you had on the piano section."
"If you only use dynamics instead of numbering (the members of the choir according to voice type), you never get the same sound twice. This method saves the voices; no one is pushed. It also doesn't disturb the intonation as much and you can maintain that sweetness of sound."
Mr. Shaw is incredibly meticulous about each note and its emphasis and importance in every voice part: "More expressive there." "Increase the dynamic." "Be late on the emphasis, as if you had a 16th rest." He does all of the expression and intonation work at first on "doo" so that he can hear the balance and the overtones.
"There's enough cresc. when the pitch goes up. You don't have to increase and break over. Did you hear the basses crack over into legitimate voice as we went up there for a moment?"
"Almost never does the loudest part of a note start at the beginning. Don't pounce unless a sf is written by the composer."

Metaphors & Miscellaneous Thoughts

To foster understanding of the music, Mr. Shaw not only leads the group through exercises, but also uses metaphors, not necessarily last, but mixed in with the prior activities. And, finally, some of his thoughts that weren't easily categorized have been included.

"Those parts of meaning that are 'unspeakable' respond to musicality, not a simple definition of the text."
"Music rests upon a false supposition, which is that time is divisible. That is reinforced by the cyclical nature of the world, such as the growing seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, etc. When you are sitting holding the hand of someone who is dying, you don't know when they pass on, nor does science, nor does law. One instant is not equal to another."
In a split choir piece, start with everyone singing the first choir part, then everyone singing the second choir part. If time, everyone should sing everyone else's parts.
"If we have a little less singing and more listening, then we'll have Bach."
"Your responsibilities as a singer are first technical and then emotional. Singers must learn to play, and instrumentalists must learn to sing."
"You'll notice from the exercise (16-beat sharping, 16-beat flatting) that it's much easier to go sharp than it is to go flat."
"Don't make it (Amazing Grace) sound like an arrangement!"
"The good, no, even the great chorus is a mucilaginous entity.You have to work hard to defeat the mucilagineity of it." Another time he said, "It sounds stickier, a little gummier than a week ago."
"Unlike drama, music requires the audience to have imagination, to become involved."
"One can change the way an audience breathes. You should care more about communication with the composer, and screw the back row. A ticket to a concert doesn't entitle one to understand it."
"Good, good, good! If you were Hindemith, you could begin to take it in dictation."
To the basses: "Your singing is more pleasing to your ear than it may be to others'."
A soloist from Mr. Shaw's Atlanta Symphony chorus said that he changes things continually. He is always open to re-interpretation based on continuing study. Even if they've already recorded a piece, it will be different the next time, so it stays interesting to work with him.
Another long-time singer with him says that he sleeps little, that he gets so excited about the music that he stays up, poring over it for new thoughts about it. His markings, therefore, are often changed in rehearsal.
"To do this tempi, we have to have the horses. We have that. Next we need size. This group (72 people) is a good size for a chamber chorus with orchestra."
'Bipedalism is terribly important to music."
"The orchestra parts are marked pp to mp; it'll never happen!"
"Because the chords begin to weaken as you hold a note (muscle exhaustion), they will tend to flat. If you have a note that holds that long, you can continually sharp it ever so slightly to maintain pitch."
If you get the two outer voices in tune, you've got it made. It would be better to sit alto, soprano, bass, tenor."

Specific Musical References

In addition to the editing of the scores, Mr. Shaw provides additional notes that may not be on the music, of which these are a sample.He also may change his mind when he hears the singers do what he'd originally marked.

Bach's Singet…:

"Make the syncopation a little bit sinful. The way you do it is to bear down on 'a gnus' and use poco staccato on 'de i'."
"Take the pitch from the oboes when the orchestra tunes up."

R.V. Williams' Mass in G Minor:

"Use a Gregorian sound, mysterious, not bright like the Haydn or Mozart."
"I haven't been able to find any recordings of this made in his lifetime. Today the Sanctus is recorded so slowly."
"This is surprisingly slow (Osanna)."
"On 'miserere', put a stop before the second 're'. It's too much in here, but not in the chapel."
"On 'patrem', to eliminate too much plosive on the 'p', use a 'b' or even an 'm'."
"I shocked myself when I looked up largamente in a dictionary. It means 'broadly sustain without a change in tempo.' Elgar used it for slowing down, so Ralph Vaughan Williams probably did, too."

Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass

"It is very emotional."
"On 'eleison', make 'son' into 'sauna'."
"On 'kyrie', say 'eh' on the end, not the 'aaee' diphthong."
"We have to remember that Mozart and Haydn were writing symphonies, and the voices are but a part. If we expect to hear the same thing here (in the concert hall with full orchestra) as we heard in rehearsal, we'd be emasculating the composition."

Mozart's Coronation Mass:

"The Haydn reminds me of the Vietnam War. Then, when I open the Mozart, there is no other mind."
"On Ky ri e, the emotional and psychological point is Ky. It is establishing the Almighty in contrast to the pathetic nature of man (kids shooting other kids in school), so use f on Ky and p on the remaining syllables."
"Add a 'd' in front of the ri on both Ky dri e and Glo dri a."
"On 'misere', use something between an 's' and a 'z'."
"On 'amen', make sure the 'ah' ends so 'm' can come before the beat."
"We need more 'v' on 'voluntatis', so add a little 'f' with more lip. I've never used it before (foluntatis) but it almost works! "
"Get off the 'mus' in 'agimus'."
"Mozart was not like Beethoven. He wasn't fulfilling the text, but almost hoping the text will fulfill the music."

Howell's Requiem:

"Sweet piece, isn't it? So that you don't have more fun listening than singing, get the sonorities out."

Britten's A.M.D.G.:

"It may not be a great piece, but it's a departure, extraordinarily creative. It's as if he's making up a new music."
"I want a drumming quality from the men. Be percussion instruments, but more sostenuto when you take the verse in the middle."

Britten's Sacred & Profane:

There are some very tricky and dissonant chord movements for which Mr. Shaw had to split out parts and add them back one at a time or work as duets. It was the only time in the entire two weeks he was required to do so.
"Basses, think bass clarinet."


The title of this paper demands a personal strategy in the use of Robert Shaw's methods of working with music. As I stated in the Introduction, I will not be using these techniques to instruct a choir. Rather, I will use them myself when singing in a choir, when preparing and performing solo works (as appropriate), and for teaching my vocal students how to analyze and practice a work before performance. I already teach light lyricism (per Dr. Doscher), but will add some of his exercises to warmup periods for both myself and my students. I will also, if Mr. Leatherman wishes, give a report to our choir on my experiences here and provide copies of this paper to its members.

A summarizing note I wrote to myself states, "Standard practice procedure: light warmups, "dah, dah" or count-sing music, do words evenly but heavily pronounced, check dynamics and emphasis, and finally put it all together to perform."It is incomplete. To this group, Mr. Shaw said, "I don't worry about interpretation with you." However, in a less professional environment, obviously, more work must be done on interpretation. The ideas he has given us on ways to approach music are very logical and are broken down into enough small steps to enable anyone serious about a work to truly study it for the best way to present it, whether it be for a choir, or for a soloist.


Mr. Shaw always wears navy blue pants and shirts, and black fringed loafers. He has silver hair and glasses to read music with. The first week, he sweated a lot, more in the afternoon, when his hair became soaked...he had a towel handy, so I presume this is normal for him. He once offered a free kidney to anyone who needed it: "never been used!"

Sometimes he conducts with his elbows high as UPbeats, rather like he was trying to lift the sound. In fact, he uses the word "lift" occasionally. He quietly and breathlessly sings for rhythm keeping along (not necessarily on pitch), occasionally checking his electronic metronome on the podium for tempo accuracy. He talks over the warm-ups and the music. When first directing for expressiveness (after all of the scut work), Mr. Shaw bent over, almost squatting, and began swinging his body into the wave of sound.

When he tires, his normally large and resonant voice begins to sound like Garrison Keillor at the end of "Lake Wobegon".

One of his regular singers said that his second wife died about two years after they renovated an old inn in Southern France. She was quite a bit younger than he. He'd complained about how much money she spent on the renovation. I imagine he was sorry later that he had.

He has a son at Yale (Harvard?) who is apparently a brilliant actor, landing a lead in his freshman year, and who will probably become a playwright.

His Stories, most of which were for laughter's sake:

RE Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky: "'I cannot write a note until I've decided on the tempo,' was Stravinsky's claim. Hindemith made fun of him by saying, 'He sat down at the piano and fooled around until he found an idea that he'd like to write on... One day he found the minor 3rd and wrote the entire piece!'"

"The poetry came from the goliards. Even when the poems are in German, their schools existed only in Italy, so use Italian Latin, not German Latin, in 'Carmina Burana'."

"After a B Minor Mass concert in Rocamadur (sp?), I was walking out with a priest, who said, 'You know, Mr. Shaw, when the angels want to do something for God, they do only Bach. When they want to do something for themselves, they only do Mozart...and God kneels at the keyhole and eavesdrops!'"

"Give me a popular song and I cannot make a mistake with it."

"It's always a problem on Sunday afternoons to get the church out of the voice and the religion back in." (re Sunday afternoon rehearsal)

"Interrupt me, but do it very subtly, so I don't realize it's an interruption."

While fumbling to change glasses once, he said, "I have glasses for this and glasses for that...and none for the other thing. Some things you can memorize!" Apparently this is an old saying of his, for the story goes that, after the birth of his son when he was over 60, someone congratulated him by saying "Hell of a memory, Bob!"

"The basses can stick with "doo" because they make more than everybody else."

"I only have two musical jokes, and this is one of them: Two summers ago we were on tour in Israel with Jesse Norman and Zubin Meta, conducting. We traveled by bus, even got bullet holes through the windows. Anyway, we were the first group to sing German in Israel, Bach's 'Christ tod in…' and Brahms' 'Liebeslieder Valses.'Worse than that, we performed in the only auditorium left standing…the YMCA! The audience wouldn't leave, and stubbornly stayed in their seats after each encore. So, finally Meta pushed Jesse out on stage and said, 'Sing anything!' So she did. The first thing that came to her mind was 'Were you there when they crucified my Lord?'"

"The fourth year of my tours, using mostly Julliard students who'd rather make a buck that way than working retail, I asked Columbia, our major supporter, to allow us to do Bach's B Minor Mass. They said, 'No, the crowds won't buy it.' I told them just to announce it. They did, and the tour was sold out by phone in four days! We traveled 200-500 miles a day, doing 40 concerts in 42 days. When we got back, the singers were so much better that their professors were wondering where they took lessons during the summer. Bach had been 'teaching' them voice for six weeks! They had to learn intellectually, emotionally, and vocally how to handle that kind of pressure well, without hurting themselves."

"On tour, the sections would rehearse four hours each, separately, so I had to conduct 16-20 hours a day."

He asked his mom, who was quite elderly and in her 90s: "Mom, what's the greatest change you've seen in this century?" Her answer? "My skin."

"When Truman was President, I spent three nights at the White House…and it didn't cost a cent! Truman was a wonderful sweet man."

"After an outdoor 'Messiah' I did for Humphrey once, I ran over and climbed on a chair to shake his hand across a fence around the dais, and suddenly the Secret Service were swarming around me. I could've just pulled him off, over the fence!"

"I saw Roosevelt once, using his crutches. He moved very slowly, was so tall you could see his head above everyone else's. And then there was Teddy Roosevelt…It was a rough ride that night..thought we'd never get out of Nevada!"

"At a religious gathering, I said, 'If there is a God, he is, by definition, good. The question is whether we're down here doing our best for that sick child.' My mistake there was using the 'F' word...IF! That's not allowed!"

"Smile...and get it over with!" (said at the start of a rehearsal)

"I always accept what he says (Norman, his accompanist) because it's easier than making up my own mind. I have to go searching for it before I can do that!"

"George Szell had trouble with beats...I don't think he ever tried the Rites of Spring, while for Lenny, it was falling off a log. Anyway, Szell was angry at the orchestra (No need--they were already afraid of him!) over a piece which went against the natural emphasis (5/4). He lost the beat and was so angry, he dismissed the chorus and orchestra for a break. As they filed out, I overheard a cellist saying, 'I've seen 2+3, 3+2, 4+1,and 1+4, but it's the first time in my #!* life I ever saw 6 take away 1!'"

During a spiritual: "It's right to be late on that p attack. I asked the concertmaster for the Boston Symphony when it was under Serge Koussevitsky (sp?) how he brought the violins in on very soft passages. The concertmaster said, 'I bring them in when he presses the button in the middle of his vest!'"

​​"I'm from a fourth generation of brother was a chaplain in W.W. I and left his body in the Pacific. Anyway, one day I was asked at church to pray for a sick woman, and I'd never prayed for anything specific except a bicycle. So I was very nervous, and didn't know what to say, so I got up there and started talking about the quality of care she deserved and so on, and people started bowing their heads because it said 'Pastoral prayer' in the program. They figured I was praying, and after a while, someone said 'Amen', so I stopped! Right after we left the church, her son drove up, hopped out of his car, and said, 'She got better right at 11:37!" which was about the time we'd been praying. So I left the church and never went back! I didn't want that kind of responsibility...the next week they had the whole list of everyone in the congregation who was sick!"

"I keep retranslating (music). Pulled out the one (Creation) I did 30 years ago, and it's so much better than the one I did yesterday!"

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