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Stewart Kershaw resigns

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Press release -- just out today

Pacific Northwest Ballet Music Director and Conductor Stewart Kershaw Announces Departure

Seattle, WA – In an announcement to the Pacific Northwest Ballet company and orchestra, Music Director/Conductor Stewart Kershaw today tendered his resignation, effective immediately. Mr. Kershaw has been with the company since 1983.

In his announcement, Mr. Kershaw explained that “Please understand that I am now 68, have been a professional ballet conductor for the last 43 years, and recently completed 25 seasons as PNB's Music Director. It is also exactly 20 years since my efforts to create the PNB Orchestra were rewarded in October 1989.”

Mr. Kershaw continued by stating “In planning my departure from the ballet world I wanted to make my own personal farewell on a high note with music that has always been so very dear to my heart - what better then than Prokoviev's Romeo & Juliet as my swan song?”

In a personal note to members of the orchestra, Mr. Kershaw added “Your brilliant and incredibly passionate playing of this masterpiece will remain a constant and indelible memory in my mind as I move on to the next chapter in my life. The recent comment in The New York Times that you are ‘perhaps best of all’ ballet orchestras in the USA, not only made me very proud but amply confirmed my own thoughts on the subject. Bravo!”

Born in Oxford, England, Mr. Kershaw was a chorister at Chichester Cathedral and studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music (of which he is a Fellow) and the Conservatoire Nationale in Paris. He was Music Director of Stuttgart Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet, and has held permanent contracts with the Royal Ballet in London as well as at the Opera Houses in Munich and Lyon. He was Principal Conductor for the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra in Japan, and Music Director of the Evansville Philharmonic for nine years. In 1997 Mr. Kershaw was invited to create the Auburn Symphony Orchestra in South King County. He plans to remain as Auburn Symphony’s Music Director.

“I was deeply saddened by the news of Stewart Kershaw’s choice to resign as our principal conductor and music director,” said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. “Stewart’s contribution to PNB over the past 25 years has been tremendous. It is with great pride that we recognize the consistent brilliance of the PNB Orchestra, knowing that we owe its accomplishment to Stewart’s guidance and inspiration. Though he will be missed in the pit, we know that his standard of excellence will continue to benefit PNB far into the future.”

PNB will begin conducting a search for Mr. Kershaw’s replacement.

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WOW. Funny, I had a thought, while watching him conduct R&J over the last 2 weeks, that he looked tired. It's been interesting to see which pieces Kershaw conducts vs the pieces that Dameron conducts. In recent years I've felt, on some level, that Dameron gets more out of the music and more out of the orchestra than has Kershaw. (But remember, I don't really know what I'm talking about -- conducting is all as mysterious as alchemy to me :FIREdevil:)

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It reminds me a little of how tenor Leo Slezak, who was scheduled to complete a series of "Otello"s at the Metropolitan Opera, decided after a particularly good performance that it was his last.

I wish Mr. Kershaw all of the best, and :FIREdevil: for all of the wonderful performances he's given us and the fantastic work he's done to build and develop the PNB orchestra.

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From yesterday's Links, another article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in which Kershaw speaks,


"All the stars had been converging."

Kershaw conducted his final Seattle ballet, "Romeo et Juliette," on Sunday. The end of that show's run and the appointment of the ballet's concert master -- an 18-month process -- signaled it was time to go.

Also, Monica Guzman's advised:

Next time you attend a PNB show, keep an eye on who's leading the orchestra. Guest conductors may very well be candidates for the position.

I have a candidate, who I think has conducted ballet: former Seattle Symphony Associate Conductor Christian Knapp, for whom I've long been wishing a conducting offer from the Seattle Opera, too.

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Gavin Borchert (a colleague) brings up an interesting question in his blog post at the Seattle Weekly here

The company is going to have to hustle to fill all the conductor spots for the upcoming Nutcrackers. I don't know how quickly these kind of things are arranged, but perhaps they could be used as part of an audition/interview process...

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Does OBT still do Balanchine Nutz? Does the trust have to approve the conductor?

OBT does still perform the Balanchine version of the ballet. I don't know if the trust has a veto over the conductor, but I wouldn't be surprised. They take their responsibilities very seriously.

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There's an editorial in yesterday's Seattle Times about Kershaw's retirement. It begins,

IT is difficult to imagine the Pacific Northwest Ballet performing its perennial blockbuster, "The Nutcracker," this holiday season without its music director, Stewart Kershaw.

Honestly, if I had just conducted my dream score and was looking at a season of "Nutcrackers", I'd retire, too.


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There's a note in the current (Director's Choice) program about Kershaw's retirement -- the administration was distressed that they weren't able to give him some kind of formal send-off, since he announced his departure quite abruptly, so Peter Boal has convinced him to appear at the end of the season in their "Encore" program, where they can acknowledge his contributions to the company.

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