Seattle conductor George Shangrow killed in crash


Handel Messiah Comfort Ye Every Valley. Stephen Wall tenor. George Shangrow conducting from the harpsichord.

J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Orchestra Seattle – Seattle Chamber Singers
George Shangrow, Music Director

Seattle is in mourning today and for all time on the death of George Shangrow. Seattle area conductor George Shangrow was killed in a car crash on Saturday July 31, 2010.

It’s not normal for me to publish things like this on my website. But this is just so shocking to me. I first worked with George when I was around 12 years old as a boy soprano and in 2005 had offered to relocate my record label and internet company to Seattle to solely focus on promoting his groups. I’m so sad to hear this. What a tremendous loss. He was such a great conductor, pianist and person. Condolences to his family.

When I was around 12 years old, George Shangrow was around 27 and worked as a rehearsal pianist for the Northwest Boychoir that I was in. He would also sometimes accompany me in voice lessons and later I sang in the chorus with him conducting Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

In 2006, before I relocated to China with Cirque Du Soleil, I last saw him conduct the Bach Mass in B Minor in Seattle, WA. I spoke with him after the concert and he said “Are you still interested in that studio and internet thing?” and I said “Yes”. But that was the last we spoke and I relocated to China.

I remember a couple years before that speaking with him on the phone from California and he was getting ready to conduct Beethoven’s 5th Symphony at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon, WA. He said to me, “I’m sitting here talking to you on the phone and tonight I’ll be conducting Beethoven’s 5th – what a trip”. Even for a great conductor like George Shangrow it was still humbling to conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

In my mind, George Shangrow was the one person who really was a role model for me of what I wanted to be. He was all about Bach, Seattle, Art and sharing that love and humor. I don’t think I could have picked a better role model for me.

I remember having lunch with him in the University district in Seattle and he told me about the pain of being ousted from King FM. That story in itself is a big sore spot with many Seattle area musicians.

He was always kind with me and always generous. I cannot even imagine how many lives he has touched with his wit and musical insight.

WINTHROP, Wash. — A well-known Seattle music conductor was killed in a car crash near Winthrop Saturday.

George Shangrow, 59, was en route to the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival.

His car was hit head-on by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction that crossed the center line during a hard rainstorm.

Shangrow founded the Seattle Chamber Singers and Orchestra and had conducted with the Seattle symphony.

WINTHROP, Wash. – A well-known Seattle music director was killed Saturday when a car driven by a teenager crossed the centerline and slammed head-on into his car on Highway 20 during a driving rainstorm.

George Shangrow, 59, founder of the Seattle Chamber Singers and Orchestra Seattle, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

When the accident occurred, Shangrow had been enroute to deliver a pre-concert lecture on American classical music as part of an annual Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, the Wenatchee World reported.

State troopers responded to the scene, about one mile east of Winthrop, at about 5:50 p.m. Saturday. The crash closed the highway for six hours.

An investigation found that a 2000 BMW driven by a 16-year-old Twisp boy was heading west on Highway 20 as Shangrow has driving east in a 2005 Volvo, the Washington State Patrol reported.

The BMW crossed the centerline into the eastbound lane and crashed into Shangrow’s Volvo. There was a pounding rainstorm with thunder and lightning at the time of the crash.

The 16-year-old suffered a broken collarbone and ankle in the accident.

Drugs or alcohol were not a factor in the collision, the Washington State Patrol said.

Shangrow was a well-known fixture in the Seattle classical music scene. For many years he hosted “Live, by George,” a Seattle radio show that featured live classical performances.

He also had appeared as guest conductor with the Seattle Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Tacoma Opera, Rudolf Nureyev and Friends, East Texas University Opera, Oregon Symphony and the Sapporo (Japan) Symphony.

He was music director and conductor of Pacific Chamber Opera from 1976 to 1978 and has conducted world premieres of six operas and numerous other orchestral and choral works.


George Shangrow founded the Seattle Chamber Singers in 1969 and Orchestra Seattle in 1979. Mr. Shangrow received his academic musical training at the University of Washington, where he studied conducting, baroque performance practice, harpsichord, and composition.

He began his professional conducting career at age 18 and has concentrated his musical efforts for 37 years with Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Seattle Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Tacoma Opera, Rudolf Nureyev and Friends, East Texas University Opera, Oregon Symphony and the Sapporo (Japan) Symphony.

Shangrow particularly relishes bringing newly composed works to the stage and has conducted world premieres of many operas, orchestral, and choral works.

Mr. Shangrow has taught music history, theory, and composition at Seattle University, Seattle Community College, and Seattle Conservatory of Music. He enjoys lecturing on musical topics and can be frequently heard at musical events and gatherings throughout the Northwest. Seattle-area music lovers also recognize Mr. Shangrow as former announcer and host of the Live! ByGeorge radio program on Classical KING-FM.


Update August  20, 2010

Seattle Times Memorial Article. Memorial service set for August 22, 2010.


Music lovers will long remember the roaring excitement of George’s Bach performances on the harpsichord with his longtime duo partner, flutist Jeff Cohan. How often do you get to use “roaring excitement” and “Bach sonatas” in the same sentence? Not often enough, George would say. He also specialized in getting the most possible excitement out of Handel’s “Messiah,” an annual fixture on his concert schedule. As a festive postscript, he inaugurated the after-Christmas tradition of the “Sing Along, Play Along Messiah,” conducting all comers for years in a boisterous come-as-you-are version of the Handel classic in University Unitarian Church.

A Shangrow performance was less concerned about details of historical practice than about extracting the “juice” of the music and presenting it to listeners. As a conductor, he was so riveting to watch that the performers visually locked onto his face and his hands, ready to follow him anywhere. Rehearsals for the Seattle Chamber Singers (with which I sang in the 1970s, before becoming a music critic) were never a dull slog. They were usually both serious and uproarious, full of fun and jokes that sometimes were unprintable.

One reason George’s Seattle musical roots are so deep is that he started so early. He was still in high school when he founded the Seattle Chamber Singers. Back in early 1969, when Shangrow was only 17, the Roosevelt High School senior was already termed “a genius” by another legend, Seattle Times feature writer Don Duncan, who cited his talents as composer, arranger, pianist, harpsichordist, choral director, and teacher of flute, piano and organ. “One thing seems certain,” Duncan accurately predicted. “We will be hearing more about George Shangrow in the years ahead.”

6 thoughts on “Seattle conductor George Shangrow killed in crash

  1. What a loss. George was just such an amazing person and musician. He was one of a kind and will be missed so much.

  2. The Youtube clips gave me goose-bumps..

    Mr. Shangrow leaves a wealth of beautiful works behind.

  3. I agree. The video clip that’s a preview of the St. Matthew Passion is so extremely moving. When I was around 18 I sang in the chorus as Shangrow conducted a performance in Bellevue, WA. It was such a powerful experience. He was a great champion of the music of Bach.

    The video in this context is a requiem of sorts…

  4. So sorry Conrad, but what a treasure you received from knowing and working with him. Let the catalyst of your connection with him inspire you in the days ahead even beyond what it has in the past. Prayers of outrageous blessings to you as always.

  5. Hello
    My father in law is a cousin of George’s. Our line of Shangrow’s here in Toronto Canada were always so proud of George’s accomplishments. Very sad news indeed.
    I am looking for a CD or two of recordings that he conducted.
    If anyone can point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.


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