Saturday, January 8, 2011

Gerald Morgan Jr. (1923-2011)

Gerald Morgan Jr., who died earlier this week at the age of 87, was best-known to a generation of Richmonders as the proprietor of Jerritt & Morgan, a store that sold records (remember them?), sheet music and other musical goods.

The shop was one of the places where the city's musicians and their audience most frequently met one another "off duty," and the shopkeeper made it a welcoming place for those encounters.

For those of us blessed or cursed to be record collectors, Jerritt & Morgan was especially welcoming. The owner was himself an enthusiastic collector, always ready to recommend new or obscure discs to enhance his customers' collections, or satisfy their curiosity.

The store was not the only, or even principal, contribution that Morgan made to music in Richmond, and beyond. He was a longtime, major donor to the Richmond Symphony and other performance groups; and he was a mentor, spiritual and material, to performers and composers.

The commission for Judith Shatin's "Jefferson, in His Own Words," premiered last March by the Illinois Symphony, conducted by Karen Lynne Deal, whom Morgan assisted early in her career, was one of many such projects that he took on over the years, and one of fairly few in which his role was quite so public. As a rule, he preferred to quietly ensure that musical projects worth doing got done.

In dedicating to Morgan the premiere performances of the Shatin piece, Deal wrote: "Without his friendship and help, I surely would not have had the opportunities that I have had or the life changing experiences I have enjoyed." She spoke for more people than she knows.