History of John O. Gerrish
c.1930 John O'Neill Gerrish's Six Piece Band
This Photo was taken after John's graduation
from Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, and just
before moving to Nutley, NJ to teach music at Nutley High School
and take charge of the marching band there. Bill Oliver, (center)
also moved to Livingston, New Jersey and became the band director
at Orange High School. Son Jim Gerrish studied music at Orange
High School and in 1958-59 played
sousaphone in the Orange High School marching band.
Right to Left
Pianist - Pop - John O. Gerrish
Trumpet - Donald Pease
Drums - Carl Dixon
Saxophone - Bill Oliver
Sousaphone - Raymond Ames
Clarinet - Walter Nicke
c.1935 Nutley High School Band in front of Nutley High School
John is in the suit, standing on the left side
of the photo. We don't know who any of the band members are and
hope Nutley High School historians can identify some of them.
Shortly after this photo was taken, John began
teaching at Newark Normal School, which eventually became Newark
State College in Newark, NJ. At this time, John brought his
family to Orange, NJ.
December 14, 1954 - Singing at St. LaSalle Club
L-R: Cathy, Jim, Marion, John O. , Mary, John B.
April 30, 1957 Photo taken before a concert of The Gerrish
Family Singers in Wilmington, DE
L-R: Standing - Jim, Mary and John B Gerrish;
Seated - Marion, Cathy, and John O. Gerrish.
August, 1960 at Camp Undercliff, Lake Placid, NY
L-R: Jim, Mary, Cathy, Marion, John O.
L-R: John O. Gerrish, Jim, Cathy,Marion, Mary, and John B.
c.1961 - News photo taken for the Newark
Evening News to publicize a concert featuring The
Gerrish Family Singers at the Newark Museum. This was taken
in the family home in Orange, NJ. By this time, Newark State
College had moved to Union, NJ.
A similar photo taken at the same time (shown
above) was used to illustrate an article in a Pre-Convention
Issue of the Music Educator's Journal for February-March of 1962.
A copy of
that article with more photos and memorabilia can be found HERE.
L-R: John B, Jim, John O., Mary, Marion, and
August, 1959. The Gerrish Family Singers
rehearsing their Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring finale on
the dock at Camp Undercliff in Lake Placid, NY. One of the owners
of the camp was Bill Oliver, band director at Orange High School,
L-R: Foreground - John O, Cathy, and John B. Gerrish. Standing -
Jim, Mary, and Marion B. Gerrish.
L-R: John O., James O., John B., Mary E.,
Marion B., and Cathy E. Gerrish
August, 1959. One more photo of you know who
from you know where. Mary insists we were actually singing
"100 Bottles of Beer," a favorite Camp Undercliff song
for the photo, but that may be a family myth.
In 2006, Pop traveled to St. Mary's Cemetery in
Potsdam, NY to put fresh flowers on Marion's grave, and
humorously posed while standing where he would be buried five
years later. Mary says he is standing directly over the spot
where he was finally buried on May 23rd, 2011 (because up north,
the ground is frozen solid all winter long). Requiescat in Pace.
O. Gerrish (1910 - 2010)
John ONeill (Jack) Gerrish passed away on
Monday, November 29, 2010 at age 100. Jack was the son of
Charles P. and Mary O. Gerrish of Potsdam NY. He
graduated from Crane School of Music in 1930, and ran a
popular dance band during the Great Depression.
Jacks favorite teaching job was his ten years at
Franklin Academy in Malone NY. He moved to Nutley, NJ in
the late 1930's, taught at the Nutley High School for a
short time before beginning a career as a Music Educator
at Newark Normal College. He brought his family to live
in Orange, NJ in the early 1940's. Newark Normal College
became Newark State Teacher's College, and it eventually
moved to Union where it became known as Kean State
University. Following the death of his first wife,
Marion, he married the late Claire Stackpole of Winooski
VT. For 20 years after his retirement as a Music
Professor, he served as organist at the Winooski Vermont
United Methodist Church.
Jack is survived by two brothers, Charles and Robert
Gerrish, both of Potsdam NY, and four children, John
(husband of Sandra), Mary, James, and Catherine (wife of
William Ryan). These, his eight grandchildren, his ten
great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews remember
him fondly for encouraging them to enjoy and perform
music. His funeral was held on December 3rd at St.
Stephens Church, Winooski, VT, then he was taken
home to Potsdam ,NY for burial.
In lieu of flowers or donations, please consider
providing music lessons for a youngster.
My name is Mel (short for MaryEllen) White. In my
earliest years I was MaryEllen McDavit, and my Dad, Herb
McDavit, was a friend of Jack Gerrish and a fan of his
music. I started lessons very early and played
"Mountain Climbing" and "South Wind"
pretty early in my lesson years. I always liked them and
never parted with the original sheet music that Dad had
given me. I have been a piano teacher for some time now,
and I have started using those pieces with one of my
students this year. She is getting good at "South
Wind" now that she finally decided to pay some
attention to the fingering on the descending thirds on
the 2nd page! Her name is Savannah and she is in 2nd (I
think) grade. I have 2 recitals a year, one at the
holidays and one in June. I'm hoping she will be playing
I was so glad I googled today and read about the
wonderful 100-year party you folks had -- how awesome
that he made that milestone and was there to enjoy the
music and love. My grandmother (my Mom's mom) lived to
103-1/2 and I am hoping I inherited those genes, as I am
a composer with 9 cds out so far and lots more to come --
I need the time to get it all out there! I would be happy
to send anyone who is interested one of my cds if anyone
would like one. Just seems like the right thing to do to
close the circuit.
Blessings to all, and thanks for the great idea to
sponsor a student instead of sending flowers -- I am
going to put that in my instructions for decades from now
when I finally pass on (I will be 64 this April) --
Mel White ( www.smilingheartmusic.com
Northview High School
Vocal Department presented a Festival of Music, Monday, March
4th, 2013 at the Max Colley Jr. Performing Arts Center in Grand
Rapids, Michigan. Performing in that concert were four of John's
great grandchildren: Ivan Suminski, Nicholas Suminski, Hariett
Groenleer and Andrew Groenleer. Also in the concert was John's
grandchild, Elizabeth Suminski. The concert included John's
choral piece "The Falcon" heard on this video contributed by Marc
Groenleer, introduced by Andrew Groenleer. In the audience were
two of John's children, John B. Gerrish and Mary E. Gerrish,
along with other relatives and family members.
The Falcon by John O. Gerrish from James
Gerrish on Vimeo.
The Falcon (aka Corpus
Christi Carol) might well have been a troubadour's song back in
Shakespeare's day. Seven couplets mingle Christian symbols with
the King Arthur Holy Grail myths, leaving the modern listener
wondering what the poem means. It is mournful stuff-something
like the well-known Coventry Carol. In 1953, John O. Gerrish set
the old poem to music, believing that the words of the poem were
inherently musical, regardless of their meaning. He composed a
funereal melody that repeatedly quotes the Medieval plainchant,
"Dies irae." The time is mostly 3/4 but listen for the
4/4 measure in which the composer obliges the conductor to
"make the sign of the Cross" at the words, "Corpus
Christi." Very Medieval, symbolism everywhere. The piece was
published in 1956. Gerrish's
"Falcon" was given an award by the National Music
Educators Association in 1962.
Found by Mary in December of 2014 in the attic
at Winooski, VT, this little known carol composed in 1952
deserves to be heard again. Click on the above page to be taken
to the full score.
Family members who spot
errors or ommissions, please contact Jim
Gerrish. Anyone who attended the
party and who has additional photos, video and information either
of a historic
nature about Jack or about the
party, please e-mail them to Jim
Museum caretakers: Jim Gerrish (#2 son of
John O. Gerrish) and Frederick
Goode (grandson of John O. Gerrish)