Shaw: The other thing I found very early was you couldn’t swear and get the "Crucifixus" done right. The quality of the music imposes a certain human standard of relationships. One of the reasons I think that one gets into the habit of, as I did in those early days, working on entertainment music only, the habit of expletives and dictatorship and stuff, was that the product wasn’t enough to hold anybody’s self-respect anyway or the respect of the person. One has been winnowed by Bach and by Brahms. It’s inescapable.
The first tour we took the Mozart Requiem. I forget whether that was 10 or 15 weeks, but if it was 10 weeks it was at least 65 performances and probably it was 20 weeks, which means 130 performances. You get back to the thing and your last concert’s in, on this particular tour, Boston Symphony Hall, which I feel has the most beautiful acoustic of any hall, at least in those years, of any hall in the United States. It’s a totally new experience for all of us and we break down crying during the middle of the performance. The tears begin to come and it doesn’t harm the performance much because people manage to burp their way through it. But those events are sobering events. And life has continued like that.
The chance to do a Missa Solemnis with a Mennonite choir, and the chance to do the Benjamin Britten War Requiem with those people who have that human and philosophical commitment to peace is an experience which is very …demeaning, humbling, very humbling experience.
Howard Dyck: Back for a moment, tell me about the choir and swearing at them, getting angry at the choir. They get angry back at you and you say “Well, it’s difficult to do the 'Crucifixus' under those circumstances." There is, of course, a spiritual component to music like that. But what do you find about the psychological response of a choir - are they able to sing if they’re angry at you? Or do you shout at them and you have to find some way to mend the fence immediately?
Shaw: Oh yeah, yeah, Sure. And we’re talking 50 years back, too. I don’t want you to make more of that than it was. I think it’s fair to state that. I think my principal tools now are leading rather than chastising, inspiring rather than dispiriting. I am also grateful for the fact that I don’t have to feel that I am false or phony about it. The music IS worth more than I am. I don’t use inspiration as a tool. I think I am inspired too. I hope it’s the music speaking through me. One of the lines that I love in the New Testament is “It is not I who speak, it is the Father in me. The things that I do you will do, and you will do even greater things.” People forget that Jesus of Nazareth said things like that.
It is not I who speaks when it is right. My early reaches certainly exceeded my grasp.