I saw this clip a few days ago, and had it in mind to post it at an appropriate time. Unfortunately when I got home today I learned some news that makes today seem all too appropriate. A distinguished and respected colleague, Prof. Steve Rawlings, of Oxford University was found dead last night. This is shocking and desperately sad news. I have no idea what happened but apparently the Oxfordshire police have arrested a 49-year old man on suspicion of murder. No doubt more information will emerge in due course.
The connection between this sombre piece of news and the clip I intended to post should become obvious when I tell you that it depicts a funeral. Indeed the music featured, the hymn or spiritual Just a Closer Walk with Thee, was the main music chosen for the service when my father died, just over four years ago. It’s a lovely old traditional tune that often plays a central role in New Orleans style funerals, as shown here, and is a melody that, for me, has a deep associattion with loss and bereavement.
The clip is taken from the US TV series Treme. I haven’t seen Treme -if it has been shown on UK TV I missed it – but it’s set in New Orleans in the aftermath of the near destruction of the city by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Not knowing anything about the TV series I only watched the clip because of the music, but I was mightily impressed by the way the scene was photographed and how careful the producers had been in getting the details just right, because a funeral in New Orleans is unlike any other.
The sashes, parasols, and exaggerated, swaying slow march seen in the film are in some sense almost comical, but they are also at the same time solemn and immensely dignified. Defiant, even. I don’t think it’s just because I am a jazz fan that I find this video so moving. Perhaps it’s really because, faced with the awesome finality of death, every action we take in life is comical anyway, just as every word is ultimately banal. However, if a farce is what it’s going to be, let’s just make sure it’s done the way we like it – especially at the end.
One of the commenters on Youtube put it thus:
it aint my time yet .but when it is thats the way i wanna go home
Amen to that. I don’t think Steve Rawlings was a jazz fan, but this is the best way I can think of to pay my respects.Follow @telescoper