Jazz Revelation/Good Friday: A Jazz Funeral for Christ by Dr. Mark King, Executive Minister
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Dr. Mark King

With a strong legacy of exemplary Holy Week worship services, we add a new addition to Marble Collegiate Church’s tradition this year. On Good Friday, April 18, Jazz Revelation will move, for this one service only, to our historic sanctuary for a jazz funeral for Christ. This sacred style was born in New Orleans with a mix of European and African influences that also include remnants from colonial Louisiana and Native American music.

A typical jazz funeral begins with a procession by family and friends from the home or church to the cemetery. Multiple instruments include brass favorites as saxophone, trumpet and tuba along with the bass, guitar and drums. Throughout the march, the band plays somber dirges and hymns. A noticeable shift in the ceremony will take place, after either the deceased is entombed, or the hearse leaves the procession and then the members of the procession say their final goodbye as they "cut the body loose". After this the music becomes more upbeat, often starting with a hymn or other spiritual played in a swing fashion. Eventually recognized and beloved tunes will follow. There will be raucous music and cathartic emotional responses as the congregation is invited to celebrate the life of the deceased. Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music are called the “second line.” Typical pieces often played at jazz funerals are the slow and sober hymn, "Nearer My God to Thee" and such spirituals as "Just a Closer Walk With Thee". The later more upbeat tunes frequently include "When the Saints Go Marching In" or "Didn't He Ramble?”

Leading our music on Good Friday will be Jeff Newell's New-Trad Octet. Combining the instrumentation of a New Orleans brass band and an electric R&B group, this free-wheeling ensemble brings its infectious rhythm and joyful humor to American music from John Philip Sousa to Hank Williams and Louis Armstrong. From the Today Show to the Chicago Jazz Festival, diverse audiences have enjoyed this band’s smile-producing combination of old style rhythmic hijinks and new music harmonies, and now we are fortunate to have them join us for this very special service.

I look forward to this unique and very relevant service. I believe it will speak to our spirits about the Good Friday experience from a new perspective. I hope we will fill the sanctuary and ask God to speak to us as we remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but also anticipate that Sunday is soon coming and with it, the glorious resurrection.

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