widowhood way back when: all that jazz

New Orleans Jazz Funerals

(Excerpted from funeralwise.com)

Historically, the New Orleans jazz funeral could last up to a week and sometimes even included a parade.
A typical funeral began with a slow march from the home of the deceased to the church or funeral home. During the march, the coffin may have been carried by a horse-drawn hearse and was accompanied by a brass band playing somber dirges and hymns. After the memorial service, the march would proceed to the cemetery and the tone would remain somber until the coffin had been placed in the ground or until the group was out of sight of the church.

People on the streets where the march passed were welcome to join in and go along with the mourners to the cemetery. This group was referred to as the “second line.“ The brass band would play a couple more hymns, though these were played with a swing beat, to alert mourners that the mood was about to change, then would launch into wilder music with tambourines and drums.

The music and dancing were both a cathartic release for mourners and a celebration of a life well lived. In this state of jubilation, the group would then march back to the location of their reception.

Carrying vestiges of African funeral rituals and originally intended to celebrate the new-found freedom of a departed slave, the jazz funerals of New Orleans evolved throughout the 20th century to come to be recognized as one of the most respected ways to exalt the life of a loved one. Musicians, police officers and African-Americans in particular have been remembered by this style of funeral and finally, those many victims of Hurricane Katrina were paid high tribute as well, New Orleans style.

A symbol of life, a symbol of death and a symbol of re-birth, the New Orleans jazz funeral salutes a life well lived and the passage of a departed soul into a better world.

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