Sunday, October 5, 2014


Yesterday was a very unusual day - I literally left my Uncle Jim's funeral to go straight to a wedding.  I couldn't stop thinking about the Jam's "Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?"

It also got me thinking about the music of the respective events; about how they served different functions.  This is hardly an original observation, I know.  But it is one that clubbed me over the head yesterday.

Uncle Jim's funeral was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Bedford, IN.  The church itself is one I like a great deal.  It is modest in scale and ornament, but it is built of (what I assume is) locally quarried stone.  The heavy stone and mostly Gothic architecture gives a sense of ageless stability and comfort.  It's also the church in which my parents were married, so immediately grim events like funerals become a bit more endurable because on some level, life for me began there.  So in a way, the table was set for the music.

Then the small church choir kicks in with some hymns*.  It's what you'd expect:  mistake free but dull, stoic, unemotional, and static. But it struck me that there is safety in such staid music.  Wandering minds (like mine) found the music and stayed there for a bit.  There is no proverbial teeth gnashing and hair pulling to be found anywhere in those hymns, and I came to see that for at least me, that was the point.  The routine of the ceremony and hymns manages to acknowledge the grief without letting it take over.  Besides being a statement of faith, I believe that is why those songs are so measured, so calming.  I was thankful for it.

Flash forward to the wedding reception:  there also the music was a known entity - safe songs on a playlist that was pretty much the opposite of ambitious.  I have to admit to rolling my eyes when I heard songs like "Shout", "Respect", and "Sweet Caroline".  Like the liturgical music, these are old ass songs that everyone knows; they are familiar as a very, very, very old pair of jeans.  Jeans that are ready for the museum, jeans that would need to be carbon dated to learn their age.  However, in this case, it was meant to lube the crowd and get them out on the dance floor.  Granted, I left early so they could've totally busted out the smutty, "grind your partner" tunes later, but when I was there, the newest, most "cutting edge" song was "MMM Bop".

Whatever/it's fine.  It's their big day, not mine.  They should play whatever the hell they want.  Anyways, you could've had a live performance from Vulfpeck and I probably still wouldn't've danced.  I just think it's interesting how what is familiar is supposed to achieve two different results.

* - I want to be abundantly clear that this is in no way a criticism of the choir.  I can't tell you how how grateful I am that there are folks who are willing to give up time on their weekends to get dressed up and come into church for events like this.  It is clear that this is a ministry for them, and I offer them much respect.  Thank you to all of those that sang at Uncle Jim's funeral.

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