A couple days ago the New York Times had a heartbreaking story of "99ers", people who have exhausted their now-extended unemployment benefits and who have nothing but despair to look forward to. Yesterday's editorial touched the topic of our Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan paying too much attention to laws of other countries. This seems to annoy many Republican hardliners. On one hand we are eager to promote the American system as an ideal one for other nations to follow, yet we don't want to allow others criticize faults in ours, no matter how educated and civilized the people are. Basic human rights should be universal and they include education for all and taking care of the sick and less fortunate. Americans cry "Socialism" whenever such ideas are discussed; they could as well blame "Christianity" as those principles are well established in that religion which majority of Americans claim to follow.
Understandably this "milestone" in my life affected my dreams and death was very much present in them. Waking up in the middle of the night I decided that I would try to outlive certain other people, to have their obituaries appear before mine. No tears would be shed and I know that we wouldn't end up in the same place, assuming afterlife exists. First thing in the morning I went to check my email, fearing that something had happened to my dad. Nothing alarming appeared in my inbox to my relief, but later during the day I saw a headline Local Conductor Killed in a Crash. For a split second Schadenfreude took over until I learned the identity of the previous night's victim. George Shangrow was one of this city's and state's most gifted musicians. His show on a local radio station, "Live by George", was so popular that many people tuned in just to hear him talk, not necessarily to listen to the music.
George was an extraordinary multi-talented musician who was equally at ease in front of the microphone, at the keyboard of a harpsichord or piano or on the podium. Many years ago he was conducting a couple school concerts with a local orchestra. I had never seen kids so excited: he turned the concert into a funny, entertaining but informative show. Needless to say, he was never invited back to conduct (to my knowledge), although his incredible ability of reading a continuo line with the left and improvising with the right hand was acceptable to the same organization numerous times, as it would have been hard to find someone else locally. He was a true pro: my father, a critical music lover himself, was present at one of George's live broadcasts when one or both of us appeared as guests, and my dad didn't stop praising the host's incredible ease with the microphone. Rumors are that a local string player recently needed a dozen takes during a recording of a most standard work: George on the keyboard would have been perfect with just one.
After he was ousted we stopped listening to the classical station. Yesterday I was driving toward the Canadian border, to pick our little one up from her orientation in Bellingham. Normally I like to tune in to the station in B.C. transmitting in Quebecoise French but for some reason yesterday's conditions were not the best for listening. Scanning through the dial I realized that the same Seattle station which had turned George's life upside down was trying to cash in by repeatedly playing music he had recorded with his orchestra and chorus. Since his abrupt departure the station's popularity has gone downhill: I found it ironic that George was resurrected from the dead to help them. Of course there were many listeners who were grateful to hear his music making one more time, but I wish the circumstances had been different.
You will live on in our memories, George.
“Retirement” © Elliot Shoemaker
George Shangrow © John Cornicello
George Shangrow © John Cornicello