I did not learn about the death of Norman Tyler Larson on February 20 until my wife showed me the obituary in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle. Norm and I were probably aware of each other’s presence for many years before he finally broke the ice several years ago during the intermission of a Voices of Music concert. Mostly he wanted to share thoughts on where the acoustics were most favorable in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. I am not sure how aware he was of my writing, but I think he knew that I did write and preferred to keep my thoughts about the music to myself until they had been committed to text.
As a result, we never really had an extended conversation until about a year ago at the Annual Gala held by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO). That was when my wife Linda and I first learned of his rich background in any number of different areas, and he first invited us to check out his house at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. It took us more than half a year to make good on that invitation, but the visit was unforgettable. We even chatted a bit about how one of the rooms might serve as a venue for a small chamber music group.
Prior to going over to this year’s PBO Gala, Linda and I spoke of looking forward to another long conversation with Norm. It did not happen, and yesterday morning we learned why. I knew of Norm’s strong commitment to supporting the performing arts in this town. He would even playfully let me know when there was a photograph of him in a program book. I was pleased to read the conclusion of the obituary, which advised that donations to PBO, the San Francisco Opera, or the San Francisco Symphony would be preferable to flowers. I am sure that Linda and I are far from the only ones who will miss picking out his distinctive appearance in the audiences for the performances we attend.