I just got the news today from my mother that someone who meant a lot to me in my youth passed away yesterday. He had already had one stroke which had debilitated him somewhat, and I guess the next one finished him.
Gerry was a singer. Not just any kind of singer, he was an operatic tenor with a rich and vibrant voice that would make anyone stop and listen. His musical exploits included a stint in the Dixie Echoes, numerous appearances in various city opera presentations, and he is even prominently mentioned on the web site of the author Anne Rice. He also taught voice, and I think his last teaching gig was at Loyola.
I knew him from the Catholic church in which I grew up (including going there for primary school), St. Thomas More in Pensacola. I’d like to lay claim to being his understudy but, in truth, it was more like we were the two tenors in the church choir so I got the position by default. I was good, yes, but not in his league by any stretch. I was once offered a full scholarship by his voice teacher and I wasn’t mature enough at the time to recognize the value of that gift so I didn’t follow up. I still regret that failure on my part.
Gerry had impeccable taste in music, and he helped open my eyes to the world of “real” music when the other kids my age were digging acts like KISS. It was he who instilled in me a love for composers like Rogers & Hammerstein, and for Rice/Webber rock operas. I would frequently borrow his sheet music and spend hours with it and the sound track albums, and I had every singing part memorized from pieces like Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. True confessions: one of my fondest fantasies as a teen was to land the part of Pontius Pilate in Superstar. I still consider the interplay between him and Jesus during the first interrogation scene to be one of the best musical dialogs ever written.
I attended many of Gerry’s performances, and he was the reason that a kid of my age was going to see Pirates of Penzance, Faust, Don Giovanni, and the like. I assign him full credit for the richness of my musical upbringing.
Rest in peace, Gerry. You are remembered with love.