In Memoriam, 2020: Tom Hall Remembers Leon Fleisher, And Others We've Lost | WYPR

In Memoriam, 2020: Tom Hall Remembers Leon Fleisher, And Others We've Lost

Dec 23, 2020

Leon Fleisher, pianist, conductor, teacher. 1928-2020
Credit 2019 photo by Chris Hartlove

2020 comes to a close a week from tomorrow, and for many of us, it can’t end soon enough.  It has been a year of unprecedented calamity, with levels of disease and death that are incomprehensible.  Nearly 80 million people are infected with the Coronavirus around the globe; about 18 million are infected in the United States.  More than 10 million Americans are out of work.  Hundreds of thousands have been killed by this pernicious disease, and our health care system, in some places, and for some people, is under tremendous strain. 

It is my custom on this program to take some time at the end of the year to remember, briefly, some of the people in our local area who have passed away during the year.  None of the folks I am mentioning died of COVID-19, and as always, this is not an exhaustive list.  I simply want to call attention to a few of the people in the area who I was blessed to know, and who our community was blessed to have...

Sigmund, “Sig” Shapiro died in March at the age of 92.  He was in the business of international trade, but his true passion was music.  He was a self-taught, and very capable pianist, who delighted in entertaining his friends and family in weekly jam sessions in his beautiful home.  Sig Shapiro always had a glimmer in his eye, and a song in his heart. 

Chrystelle Bond started the dance program at Goucher College.  She specialized in historical dance, and she led a group called Choreograph Antique for many years.  Chrys and I worked together on several productions over the years, and she was always a generous and wise collaborator.  Chrystelle Bond was 82 years old.

In June, our community lost a beacon of joy and inspiration when the actor and director Shirley Basfield Dunlap passed away at the age of 67.  Dr. Dunlap was the coordinator of theatre arts and associate professor of fine and performing arts at Morgan State University, guiding countless young actors through the challenges and deep rewards of working on stage.  Like all good directors, she was demanding, and like all great artists, her talent was premised in her passion and her remarkable gifts. 

In August, Bill Lee passed away just one month shy of his 80th birthday, leaving our Reservoir Hill Community deeply saddened and very grateful for his years of selfless leadership and advocacy for our neighborhood.  Bill and I lived a few houses apart from each other for more than 30 years.   Bill and his wife Nancy were the go-to people when it came to organizing and animating people to make where we live better, and to serve as a paradigm for how a diverse and vibrant community can best serve the people who live in it.

The singer and teacher Lauretta Dorsey Young, a fixture on the faculty of the Baltimore School for the Arts for decades, was an extraordinary talent, who broke racial barriers when she appeared on the stages of leading opera houses, and who modeled a tremendous work ethic for her students.  She was beautiful and gifted, and well aware of the fact that talent alone was never sufficient to realize an artist’s dreams.  She was admired, respected, and cherished in Baltimore and beyond.  She died at the age of 77.

Michael Warlow, who died in October at the age of 76, was a highly respected lawyer and litigator, with an abiding love of singing and the theater.  A mainstay of the Young Victorian Theater Company, an a cappella group called The Foxheads, and the Annapolis Chorale, Michael’s love for making music in community shone through every measure he sang.  Michael’s wife of 52 years, Melissa, is the director of the William G. Baker Memorial Fund, one of the area’s most important philanthropic supporters of the arts. 

And earlier this month, Linda Panitz, who worked tirelessly for social justice causes and the arts, died at age 81.  A longtime member of the board of the Baltimore Symphony, Linda was as informed and passionate and strategic a patron of the arts as our town has ever known.  She was super-smart, funny and delightful in every way, and her list of accomplishments on behalf of the cause she championed is lengthy and vitally important.

And finally, I’d like to remember the great pianist, conductor, and teacher Leon Fleisher.  Leon and I worked together on several occasions, and I interviewed him several times.  We close this remembrance with part of a conversation I had with Leon when his autobiography was published in 2010, and I was the Culture Editor of WYPR's old Maryland Morning program.