One of my photo instructors once said, “You never know how important a picture will be. That simple snapshot you took on the way out could mean the world the somebody.”
That point was driven home recently. I wish it hadn't.
George Shangrow was an icon in the Seattle classical music scene. Director of Orchestra Seattle and The Seattle Chamber Singers, faculty member of the Seattle Conservatory of Music, musical director of of the University Christian Church, and host of a weekly classical radio program, “Live by George.” I personally knew George for over ten years, and held him in awe. I've played piano for most of my life, but knew that he could beat me in a piano playing contest with both hands tied behind his back. (He had a very talented nose, too.) But it was his personality that kept people coming back. He had a big laugh and a quick with that brought everybody closer, made them work just a little harder, enjoy the music just a little bit more.
Three weeks ago I was asked to photograph an event at the University Christian Church where George was conducting the choir. My focus was on the even itself, but I managed to get a couple of quick grab shots of George at the piano.
Less than a week later he was gone, taken much too early in a car crash.
I always wanted to do a grand portrait of George. Black and white, him sitting at the piano, his wild conductor hair carefully back-lit, the choir at attention behind him. I would imagine shooting it with my 4x5, taking hours before hand to perfectly light every detail. He was the type of personality that demanded no less.
But I'm glad I did turn the camera towards him that afternoon. It was the last time he conducted the UCC choir, and one of the last pictures of this talented man ever taken.
I wish the picture was better, but you never know.
I'll miss you George.
The memorial service for George Shangrow will be held on August 22 at 2:00 pm at the University Christian Church, 4731 15th Avenue NE.