Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Roger E. Burgess Jr., 67


On March 3rd, Roger Burgess passed away at Georgetown University Hospital. A longtime Foreign Service officer, carrousel afficianado, skilled trombonist, and fan of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mr. Burgess and his family have asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made on his behalf to Preservation Hall. It is a very moving sentiment, and we wish to thank him and his family for the kind gesture. We would also like to thank Mr. Burgess for the kindness shown to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band by he and his wife while the group was on tour in Leningrad many years ago. Roger's daughter tells the story this way:

When my father served as Administrative Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Leningrad in the former Soviet Union between 1978-1980, the Preservation Hall Band was invited to Leningrad as part of the Arts in Embassy program. My mother remembers that the performance was met with great enthusiasm, the performers appearing at a significant time
in Russion history. It was before the days of Glasnost and Perestroika when "detente" was the catchword of the day. The era was marked by a time of increased trade and cooperation between the two countries, and the preamble to the thaw of the Cold War was at hand.

The Soviet government considered Jazz an acceptable cultural medium,
and what better representative of U.S. culture than Preservation Hall to play for the masses. My father's official role in their visit was to see to their needs throughout their stay in Leningrad. One of his main concerns was the musicians' age and infirmity, many of them being in their seventies. But when the Preservation Hall Band sat down to play, age was forgotten in their skillful, energetic playing. Besides the many official functions the group atteneded, my parents hosted an unofficial party for them in the consulate to which many of the diplomatic community were invited. My mother remembers that it was a spaghetti supper complete with red-checkered tablecloths and candle-stoppered Chianti bottles. Of such little moments, history is made."

While Mr. Burgess was, unfortunately, never able to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play at their home venue here in New Orleans, it may be worth noting that there is a poster hanging in our carriageway commemorating the Leningrad visit on which Mr. Burgess and the PHJB had the opportunity to bond and share some memorable time...

To learn more about the life Roger E. Burgess, Jr., please follow this link to the full Washington Post Obituary.

Many thanks to Roger and his family,
~Preservation Hall


Mat said...

this is a really wonderful blog post. a fitting tribute to a wonderful man.

TBD said...

This is really terrific. Thanks so much, Preservation Hall. I know my father is smiling in heaven, thrilled to be included on your blog! Susan Burgess

Anonymous said...

I feel so sad that I didn't know this talented man better. What a legacy he leaves behind. Susan, your dad was so special, I know that the memories will be deep with you and your family forever. We love you, Ingrid& gang

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to Roger's love of jazz ... I am sure he's playing that trombone with the angels! Thank-you for including him in your blog.
Erin (cousin) Sullivan