A Tribute to Hanley Daws, former SPCO Associate Concertmaster

Hanley Daws in rehearsal, circa 1980.

By Joshua Koestenbaum, Associate Principal Cello of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

My orchestra colleagues and I were saddened to learn of the passing of a wonderful artist we had the pleasure of working with for many years. Former SPCO Associate Concertmaster Hanley Daws passed away on October 7, 2021 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He lived a wonderfully rich life of 79 years filled with his love for music, art, cooking, family, and friends. 

He was effortlessly generous in many ways. My first real conversation with Hanley exemplified his welcoming nature, and it has stayed with me all these years. Just after I joined The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, in 1980, Hanley telephoned me. Though we were colleagues, I’d felt too new, too shy, and too uncertain of myself to say more than a few words to him. 

Hanley was calling to welcome me to the group, and to tell me that I should consider him as a friend. It meant a lot to me. 

Hanley always knew the right thing to say. He chose his words well, and was diplomatic but direct. He had a way of making you feel warmly included in a conversation—he’d have made a great ambassador. I remember his perfect impromptu post-concert toasts. 

There was also Hanley the connoisseur of fine old Italian violins, Renaissance painting, 20th-Century American literature (he read a lot of John Updike). He loved The New Yorker magazine––especially the John Addams cartoons––the more sardonic, the better. He made the best puns, which he shared freely (they were good). 

He knew a lot about food and loved to cook. I remember having been invited to his home, for my first Minnesota Thanksgiving, and how he’d fussed over a saucepan of hollandaise sauce. It was my first hollandaise sauce, and it was delicious. 

Hanley had a wicked wit, a gift for mimicry, and an appreciation for the absurd and off-kilter. He was brilliant.