Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gerry Niewood

I've known Gerry Niewood for over 20 years. Not well - he traveled a lot, and seemed to be always on the road, the story of a musician's life. But I knew his family better. His wife Gurly and I sang together as fellow altos in the church choir for many years. She has a lovely voice and I've always hoped she would consider returning to the choir. Son Adam was in high school with my own son. Later on daughter Elizabeth took voice lessons from the same voice teacher I take lessons from. We had a recital at the Niewood's house one time, a lovely old Victorian filled with books and old furniture and worn rugs. That last part may not sound flattering, but I mean it to be! The Niewoods had a *home*, well loved and well lived in, full of charm. It was a real home where real people lived, not a showplace.
So when I heard that Gerry was one of the victims who perished in the dreadful crash of Continental flight 3407 in Buffalo, NY I was overwhelmed with shock and grief. How could such a dreadful thing happen? I saw Gerry just two weeks ago. Our church has an annual antique show every year, and the opening night there is a lovely reception with appetizers and music, and this year the music was provided by Gerry and Gurly. He on flute, she on piano. The whole family is musical, but Gerry was outstanding. As Gerry's MySpace page says "Gerry Niewood is an instrumentalist (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones; flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, clarinet) who has lent his melodic invention to artists as diverse as: Chuck Mangione, Peggy Lee, Simon and Garfunkel, Sinead O'Connor, Anne Murray, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Mark Murphy, Gil Evans, Astrid Gilbeto, Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra and Gerry Mulligan to name only a few. Gerry is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music."

In fact it was a gig with Chuck Mangione what was taking him to Buffalo. If you go to his MySpace page you can also hear some of music. I'm still so sad, and sorry for the whole Niewood family. Today I could not settle after church and choir, and finally decided that painting a picture would be cathartic. I could not follow my usual practice of only painting from life, or using my own photos. I have no photos of Gerry. And if I had they would have been snapshots of Gerry the man, not Gerry the musician.

But I was much taken by the photo posted of him at the website. Not only did it incorporate Gerry with his sax, but was taken in the town where we both live, in the local train station where I have many times waited for trains when I had job assignments or training that took me into New York. So that was what I felt I needed to use. I would not call this a good likeness of Gerry. I'm not a portrait artist. If you want to see what Gerry really looked like there are plenty of images you can Google, like this one.

But doing this today helped *me*. I'm so sorry for all the lost victims of Flight 3407, but Gerry was the one that I knew.

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