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Tribute to Gerry Collins aka Gerald Isaacson ATCL LTCL

Gerry was a MU member for 45 years, and a gifted musician and educator. He passed away on 1 January 2023 after a long, rich and varied career. This tribute has been provided by his wife Diana and daughter Natasha.

Published: 16 May 2024 | 2:12 PM
Black and white newspaper clipping image of Gerry smiling sat a piano.
Gerry's versatility as a talented musician led us into a life we never dreamed of.

When Gerry walked into any room with a piano - the moment he touched the keyboard - not only did the piano come alive, but the whole room lit up with the undeniable magic of his playing. Whether a club one-nighter or the Savoy Hotel, the response was always the same, he had a gift.

Gerry was a musician much in demand and although his music and unexplainable gift in teaching touched many lives, he always remained humble, warm hearted and hard working with a great sense of humour.

A versatile musician who inspired others to make music with joy

When Gerry finally left the North London School where he was Head of Music for 30 years, his popularity was very apparent and his farewell concert was given thunderous applause. A special tribute to Gerry was given by Mr Wilson, the former Head of Haberdashers School in July 2019, in appreciation not only of Gerry's long term service to the school, but also what he stood for in music - a teacher, as well as a composer, orchestrator, conductor and musical director.

The speech was followed by a rendition of the school’s anthem, sung by all of the children and accompanied by Gerry at the piano (who had written both the music and lyrics especially for the school).

They continued without any accompaniment, knowing the words off by heart (which I found particularly touching). In his memorable speech, Mr Wilson said that, "so many pupils here will remember their maestro - the versatile musician who inspired them to make music with joy, to be something greater than themselves!"

The school has since named an award after Gerry, and the cup is given each year to the most promising pupil in music.

An acclaimed educator

Gerry enjoyed a long and varied career in music and music education, which he clearly loved and to which he contributed all his energy. Whilst teaching, he saw many of his pupils grow up, having taught them from the ages of six to 26.

He was acclaimed by the Duke of Edinburgh Achievement Awards Committee when he put his younger students through their grades (Grade eight, the highest) for the Royal Schools.

But Gerrys talent didn't stop there, it was his versatility as a talented musician which led us into a life we never dreamed of.

We met at a rehearsal

I'd just completed a year at Talk of the Town, London followed by a season in Sydney Australia (singing), when I was sent by London Management to Johannesburg to do my show. There I met Gerry, the musical director, and it was to be a life changing moment for us both.

With favourable reviews and a lot of hard work we enjoyed a successful season, even regular visitor Jose Feliciano couldn't resist a jam with Gerry's band. Another regular was James Bond (in the shape of Roger Moore), Tom Jones and Rick Parfit (of Status Quo)!

As full-time professionals we merged our various work experience together: London Theatre; Concert; BBC and SABC TV broadcast and recording.

One day when we stepped off the Cunard QE2 in New York (where we were doing our show), Gerry decided he was heading straight for the famous Manny's Music Shop. He returned to the ship with volumes of orchestration and a new chapter emerged. Before we knew it, this doctor of music was writing and conducting for the BBC and a 36 piece orchestra with strings.

SABC TV then invited Gerry and I to perform with the South African Philharmonic 90 piece Orchestra, it was a dream come true.

We married in 1974 and continued working and travelling together. Then came our best production ever, our beautiful and talented daughter Natasha. Eventually we settled back in the UK where Gerry continued to work with various bands and A-Listers.

Some of Gerry’s career highlights

  • Musical Director of The Black Mikado
  • Musical Coordinator for the Anne Margaret Las Vegas Show
  • Musical Director for Dickie Henderson TV and live shows
  • A composition featured on the National Youth Jazz Orchestra’s record, ‘Fly to Me’
  • We both performed before a live studio audience at the Fairfield Hall, where Gerry was Guest Musical Director for Nelson's Column’s 36 piece band, hosted by Spike Milligan for BBC TV
  • Gerry composed, arranged and recorded two of his own albums: self titled ‘The Gerry Collins Trio Plus’, and ‘Rainbows’ by the The Gerry Collins Orchestra. The latter of which included a composition called ‘Daylight Mirage’, which was written by our daughter Natasha who also collaborated on tracks 14 and 15. This album was originally released in Japan and had some success worldwide
  • Gerry also had his own music publishing company Zikor music, and we both had our own TV show in South Africa called ‘The World Of’.

Gerry was a member of the MU for 45 years, having originally begun his membership in 1978.

This tribute has been provided by Gerry’s wife Diana and daughter Natasha. 

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Black and white newspaper clipping image of Gerry smiling sat a piano.

Tribute to Gerry Collins aka Gerald Isaacson ATCL LTCL

Gerry was a MU member for 45 years, and a gifted musician and educator. He passed away on 1 January 2023 after a long, rich and varied career. This tribute has been provided by his wife Diana and daughter Natasha.

Published: 16 May 2024

Read more about Tribute to Gerry Collins aka Gerald Isaacson ATCL LTCL
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