Musician Roger Shaw to play last local concert
On a late October morning, the shaggy vestiges of an early winter snow still linger like shredded rags in side yards and on patio furniture along East Garnet Avenue in Granby.
Set against the still, drab morning, the entrance to Hicks Hall at St. John’s Episcopal Church looks like a hearth door.
Inside, four musicians sit alone on the stage, engrossed in one of Felix Mendelssohn’s string quartets.
On the right, Roger Shaw sits cradling the neck of a cello in his left hand.
His eyes are nearly closed, and he seems entranced as he draws his bow across the strings.
To his right, Mary Stockum saws steadily at her viola, eyes trained on the music stand in front of her.
Beyond her, flutists Becky Shaw and Sara Lomax sway back and forth as they play. The music ebbs and flows until some seemingly imperceptible disharmony brings it to an abrupt stop, and Shaw is awoken from his reverie.
The quartet briefly discusses the cause of the hiccup and then dives back into the piece.
The quartet is practicing for what will be Shaw’s last concert in Grand County, which will take place on Nov. 15 at Church of the Eternal Hills in Tabernash.
Appropriately titled “A Swan Song,” the program will include music by Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and Camille Saint-Saens.
Shaw first moved to Grand County in 1995 and has been a stalwart in the county’s music scene ever since.
He and his late wife Joan initiated many musical initiatives in the county including the OURchestra and the Mountain Messiah sing-a-long, which brought George Frideric Handel’s music to Grand County every December for 18 years.
Shaw first started playing cello when he was 8 years old and living in Illinois.
Later, after moving to Buffalo, N.Y. for his father’s work, Shaw met Joan in their high school’s pit orchestra.
“At that point, I was a freshman and she was a sophomore, and girls just didn’t do that, but she seemed to think it was alright,” Shaw said. “So we were high school sweethearts.”
To make up for lost time, Shaw rolled two years of high school into one and graduated with Joan. She went on to get a degree in music therapy from Michigan State University, while Shaw studied at the University of Rochester.
“If we had one phone call between seeing each other, that was a lot,” Shaw said. “It was a big deal to make a long distance phone call way back then.”
The two married in 1956 while Shaw was in graduate school.
Music was a constant force in their lives, for better or for worse.
Shaw recalled practicing the tuba while playing with the Rocky Mountain Brass of Fort Collins.
“Tuba practicing was asking a lot of a wife to put up with,” Shaw said.
Joan never complained overtly, and Shaw mentioned the fact to a friend.
“I said I thought Joan tolerated the tuba pretty well,” Shaw said.
“You thought so?,” the friend replied. “She hated that.”
Joan was primarily a pianist and violist, though she played violin “under duress,” Shaw said.
“She was quite a good pianist,” Shaw said. “Her very favorite thing to do was to play for restaurants, dinner music and the old songs.”
She died in February.
Shaw has since decided to move to Indiana where one of his daughters lives.
Lomax started playing with the couple in 2005 and called the upcoming concert bittersweet.
“I think that I speak for the whole quartet, too, that they are really enjoying this opportunity and will miss having Roger here to continue this endeavor,” Lomax said.
For Shaw, it’s the simpler parts of mountain living that he’ll miss the most.
“I’ll miss splitting wood, dog gone it,” he said. “It’s been my exercise for 20 years basically, to get out every day and work on the wood pile for an hour or so.”
Shaw and Lomax will be joined by flutist Shaw of local Irish band Claddagh and violist Stockum, a music teacher at West Grand Elementary and Middle School.
Jan Sears will play the piano.
The program will start at 2 p.m.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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