Shaw, Robert Lawson

Shaw, Robert Lawson, 1916–99, American conductor, b. Red Bluff, Calif. Moving to New York City after college, he founded and led the Fred Waring Glee Club (1938–45) and the Collegiate Chorale (1941–54). In 1946 he became head of the choral division of Juilliard, a post he held until 1950. Two years later he organized the Robert Shaw Chorale, which became one of America's most illustrious vocal groups and made his name virtually synonymous with choral singing despite his lack of a traditional musical education. Shaw innovatively arranged his singers in quartets of bass, tenor, alto, and soprano instead of the traditional four blocks of similar voices, creating a richer vocal sound. His chorale developed a diverse repertoire, commissioned new works, made many recordings, and toured nationally and internationally until 1966. Also active in orchestral music, Shaw conducted the San Diego Symphony (1953–58), was associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (1956–67) under George Szell, and directed (1967–88) the Atlanta Symphony, transforming it into a respected professional ensemble.

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