'American Masters: Robert Shaw'
(DVD / PG / (2016) 2019 / PBS)
Overview: 'American Masters: Robert Shaw - Man of Many Voices' traces the improbable journey of Robert Shaw's life and career, from his childhood as a preacher's son in rural California through his meteoric rise as a star of popular music during the Great Depression.
An early champion of civil rights, his chorales were among the first to break the color barrier in the American South.
DVD Verdict: In what was a stunningly revealing, heartwarming, and totally engrossing new documentary from PBS, 'Robert Shaw - Man of Many Voices' traces the journey of a small town California boy who planned to be a minister like his father, but instead became the greatest conductor of choral music the world has ever known.
Indeed, at the heart of the film is the mystery of Shaw's genius. With no formal musical training, he achieved a stunning early success in popular music and later became legendary for his interpretations of classical music's great choral masterpieces.
An early champion of civil rights, Shaw (April 30, 1916 – January 25, 1999) had a mystical belief in the power of community and could communicate his passion for music with spellbinding intensity.
As Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the latter half of the twentieth century, Robert Shaw changed the course of musical history through the many voices he set on fire with an enduring love of music.
In fact, Shaw's influence extended far beyond the work of one great orchestra and this delightful new documentary showcases that in some lush depth.
Indeed, Shaw's eventful journey is brought to life in the film by interviews with legendary musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia McNair, Alice Parker, Marietta Simpson, and Florence Kopleff, among others.
Family members, admirers, and friends include President Jimmy Carter and Ambassador Andrew Young and they all come together to showcase the talents of a man who although noted in classical repertoire, hardly limited himself to that genre.
The 104 recording credits on his discography also include recordings of sea shanties, glee club songs, sacred music and spirituals, musical theater numbers, Irish folk tunes, and, most notably, Christmas albums that have remained bestsellers ever since their release. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:
Robert Shaw - Perspectives Following the ASO/ASOC European Tour (Interviewer: John Weatherford, 1988)
Robert Shaw - Perspectives on Music and the Arts (Interviewer: David Hughes, Duke, Living Stories, 1994)
Alice Parker - Interview Outtakes
Ann Howard Jones - Interview Outtakes