Dr. Gerald Weale, Former Music Director of the Newburyport Choral Society Passes Away

Dr. Gerald R. Weale 1936-2018

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) R. Weale, age 82, who served as the Music Director of the Newburyport Choral Society (NCS) for 27 years, died on December 1, 2018 in Gettysburg, PA after a brief illness. He was serving as Organist and Choirmaster of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Shippensburg until shortly before his death

NCS Board President Solomon Berman expressed the sense of loss felt by the NCS community: “We have lost a brilliant musician whose name became synonymous with the arts in Newburyport. We have lost a man who was a colleague, a mentor, a teacher, a leader, and a dear friend to so many. In the days ahead, we will mourn Jerry’s passing, and celebrate his wonderful life and his many gifts that remain with us.

Born and raised in New York City, Dr. Weale had a distinguished professional career. He attended Columbia University, where he received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Music, and received his doctorate and taught music at Boston University. He remained on the faculty there for nearly thirty years, teaching music theory, choral conducting and choral repertoire as well as chairing the Organ Department. He was named Professor Emeritus when he retired in 2006.

His journey with NCS began in 1986 when current tenor and NCS Logistics Director Ralph Johnson contacted him at Boston University.   Ralph’s connection to Jerry went back to his own singing in the Columbia Freshman Glee Club which Dr. Weale directed.

Jerry’s arrival at NCS heralded a quantum leap forward in professionalism and performance quality. He exposed NCS singers to more challenging choral works, and under his leadership, NCS set itself apart from other area community choruses by contracting with professional orchestra musicians and soloists for its performances. That, coupled with a broad, rich repertoire of choral music, including many of the great choral masterpieces, gave local audiences access to outstanding choral music performances.

In describing this time, Ralph Johnson commented, “The Maestro was a great teacher.He gave us a sense of time and place of when the works were created, what areas of the composer’s life affected the composition, and the majesty of what we were singing.”

“To have sung this music is to have clutched at the hem of greatness,” were Dr. Weale’s words to the chorus when NCS began rehearsals for a performance of the Bach B-Minor Mass.But these words also epitomized the extraordinary musical, intellectual, and artistic journey he spearheaded.  His combination of musical talent, scholarship, penchant for excellence, and, more than anything, his ability to instill in each member a sense of obligation to the art of music turned a “community chorus” into a unique musical organization. His strong belief was that not only does great music get performed professionally for the enjoyment of audiences, but in the process all the performers’ lives become enriched in a multitude of ways. Upon his retirement as Music Director in 2014 he was honored with the title Emeritus of NCS.

Dr. George Case, Music Director of NCS since Dr. Weale’s retirement talked about Jerry’s personal influence on him. “He was my freshman year theory teacher at Boston University where he immediately took me under his wing and tutored me.  I have yet to meet a man who spoke more excitedly about music, how it is put together, how composers shape the compositions, and how who they are influence their music. He was always joyful in talking about music and that more than anything is something I have carried with me. When I became the Newburyport Choral Society’ Music Director, I felt like I stood on the shoulders of a giant.”

Dr. Weale had many experiences and received many awards during his career. In his early years he was a professional organist and directed choruses in New York City and served in the United States Army from 1959-61. In 1964 he was presented the Episcopal Presiding Bishop’s Certificate in Church Music, the only such award ever given. He served Episcopal parishes in New York City, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Immediately prior to relocating to Gettysburg, he served as Organist and Choirmaster of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover, NH

On his 25thAnniversary as NCS Music Director, he received awards from the Mayor of Boston, the Governor of Massachusetts, and the Mayor of Newburyport. But Jerry didn’t dwell on awards. When he was asked to reflect on his career and identify some “highlights,” without hesitation he pointed to two: His time as the principal assisting artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1975 and the European tours with the Newburyport Choral Society.

Berman wrote in a note to the Choral Society that, “…through Jerry’s hard work and ardent devotion the Newburyport Choral Society became a better Chorus, a stronger institution, and a more vibrant community.”

Dr. Weale is survived by his spouse of 32 years, the Rev. Dr. Herbert Sprouse, Rector of Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Gettysburg, PA. He also leaves a sister, Ruth E. Johnson and her husband Robert; a niece Elizabeth Johnson Petersen and husband William, a nephew William Johnson and wife Lizbeth, three grandnieces and a grandnephew, all residing in central Massachusetts.

A funeral rite will be celebrated at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church, Gettysburg, PA, on Friday, December 7th at 2:00 PM. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Audrey Scanlan, Bishop of the Diocese of Central PA, will preside. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Gettysburg and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Shippensburg, PA. A service celebrating Jerry’s life and many friendships will also be held in New England at a later date.

Author: ncsadmin

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