By Dominic Teresi
October 19, 1947 – May 30, 2020
It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Michael McCraw. Longtime Tafelmusik fans will remember Michael from his tenure as the orchestra’s Principal Bassoonist from 1991–2001. Prior to joining Tafelmusik, Michael was a pioneer of the historical bassoon in the New York Early Music scene of the 1970s, teaching himself to play the instrument and persevering through all the challenges that presented. In 1979 he moved to Cologne, Germany and became a fixture in many of the most important performance ensembles of the day including Musica Antiqua Cologne, Amsterdam Baroque, Concerto Köln, and Concentus Musicus Wien. He can be heard on dozens of landmark recordings by these and many other ensembles. Michael was courted by Jeanne Lamon, who enticed him to move to Toronto and join Tafelmusik as Principal Bassoonist beginning in 1991. For the next ten years Michael was an important voice in the Tafelmusik wind section along with oboists John Abberger and Washington McClain, as well as an integral part of the Tafelmusik “bass sound” with Christina Mahler and Alison Mackay, and can be heard on Tafelmusik’s many Sony and CBC recordings from the 1990s.
In 2001, Michael stepped down from his position at Tafelmusik in order to move to Bloomington, Indiana where he was teaching at the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. He soon became a full-time professor there and served for a time as co-director of the EMI. He retired from IU in 2014. Tragically, just days after his retirement, Michael was struck by a car while crossing the street in Bloomington and sustained serious and extensive injuries. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered and was unable to resume the active life he so loved, but still managed to play recorder and enjoy time with visiting friends at his nursing home for several years. We are saddened to share that Michael passed away from COVID-19.
Michael was a dedicated and challenging artist and teacher. He has influenced hundreds of students in the US, Canada, and Europe over the years. I studied with Michael from 1999 to 2001. In the midst of my doctoral studies at IU, I will always be grateful that Michael strongly encouraged and convinced me to audition for Tafelmusik. This photo is from our apartment, shortly after I moved with my young family to Toronto to take up the Tafelmusik position full time.
Michael with Dominic’s son
Michael was a flamboyant and larger-than-life personality. He was a social butterfly and made friends and lasting connections wherever he went. He will be missed by many. Rest In Peace, Michael.
Michael in a Tafelmusik rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Ivars Taurins.
Michael with his dear friend Washington McClain at the Amherst Music Festival. Photo by Alison Melville.