F YOU HAVE NEVER read the 1960 interview with DR. ROGER WAGNER, you really should. Wagner—who preferred his name pronounced the French way (Roh-shay Vahg-NEY)—was basically an American, but died in France in 1992. According to Paul Salamunovich, one of Wagner’s last conversations was with Robert Shaw, the internationally acclaimed choral director who has lived in France for several years. Shaw and Wagner had long been considered the dominant figures in American choral music. An excerpt:
“Study the great works and as soon as possible perform them. Do steep yourself in the tradition of ancient music from the very beginning of the chant through the polyphonic period—all the way through. Through the baroque period, right through to the romantic period, right through to the contemporary idiom. Experience all of these things. Have a feeling for musical values. Have a respect for the phrase. Do a lot of music. Do not become stagnant; have great hopes and treat your high school groups or your college groups as if they were professionals. Don’t apologize for them, because they are going to be as good as you are. The chorus is as good as its conductor.”
Speaking of Paul Salamunovich, I was pleased to see that he agrees with my professors when it comes to choral vowels:
I don’t mean to imply that I ever doubted my teachers—but it’s nice to have things reinforced!