Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pine Box or $100,000 Coffin, You're Still as Dead as a Snail That Got Stepped On

Tomorrow morning after my final (there's a time limit on the final so I'm not risking cutting my final short and taking dangerous chances with my grade) I will be rushing off to assist my mom with providing music a t a funeral. I used to do this sort of thing all the time, usually without my mother. She's long pst nedding to supplement her earning by singing or playing at funerals, and the $100 or so that she might earn is a fraction her real hourly wage if she's for-real working, so she only does funerals eitherwhen she knows friends or family of the deceased, or when someone is paying the big bucks. Tomorrow's funeral falls into the latter dategory.

Usually my mom plays piano and organ herself, and if any vocal numbers are called for, she accompanies herself. This is apparently not quite the Catholic brand of wahtever would be considered kosher among the most knowelgdeble and sophisticated among us --- our betters, for want of a better term. The  bereaved of tomorrow's funeral are apparently a just a little bit superior-- a  little classier and more knowledgeable about how Emily Post or Pope Francis would conduct a funeral service than are most of us, and are  willing to play the big bucks to ensure that the send off works out in a manner of which Miss Post and Papa Frances would approve.  I personally do not understand what's low-brow about singing while seated at the piano accompanying oneself, as both  Elton John and Billy Joel do it regularly, as do numerous others, including Brruce Hornsby, Gabe Dixon, and, I've been told, in his day, little Wolfie Mozart,  If these people think having a solist stand in front of the mourners and sing while being accompanied on piano by a pianist less skilled than she,  as opposed to sitting at the piano accompanying herself, I'm willing to allow them to wallow in their ignorance if the price is right. On songs where they want both violin and piano along with the vocals, my mom will play and sing at the same time. Does the cleasslessness of a vocalist singing and accompanying herself disappear once a violin is tossed into this mix? Apparently so. As to why,  I'm growing coinfused, but again, for a three dollars, I'll be confusedfor an hour or two.

I'm still not sure of all the aongs we're doing -- I think there are so many that the mourners will be so happy when we cease with our playing and singing and they can make their escape and  they'll forget they were sad about the departed in the first place. Perhaps that was the plan all along. These people my be smarter than I'm giving their credit for being. Or perhaps not. The dear departed, a woman of seventy-nine, was a lover of music and of the arts. Some of the songs she's chosen are logical selections. "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd  Weber, is one of my personal favorites. "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," by Jimmy Webb and recorded by God knows how many artists, while pretty, seems a bit of an odd song for a funeral. It does have a nice violin part, so my mom is faced with the dilemma of having me play the piano for her, or using me as violinist, and making it less classy by playing the piano while she sings. She's opted for the classless version. Regardless, it's a pretty song, but for a funeral?

The deceased wanted  [this was all dictated most precisely in her will] (or wants depending upon how one views such things) a song that was sung at the end of every Andy Williams Show, or at least all of the ones in the later years. I'm not all that familiar with the Andy Williams Show, so I'm not the expert on just how many people would even know this song. It's called "May Each Day." It goes as follows:

May each day in the week be a good day
May the Lord always watch over you
And may all of your hopes turn to wishes
And may all of your wishes come true

May each day in the month be a good day
May you make friends with each one you meet
And may all of your daydreams be mem'ries
And may all of your mem'ries be sweet

The weeks turn to months and the months into years
There'll be sadness and joy, there'll be laughter and tears
But one thing I pray to heaven above
May each of your days be a day full of love

May each day in the year be a good day
May each dawn find you happy and gay
And may all of your days be as lovely
As the one you shared with me today

May each day of your life be a good day
And good night.

It's all fine, I suppose, except that my mom is having to say "good night" to everyone, and the funeral is happening at high noon. Whatever. I suppose less fitting things have been sung at funerals. I know so, in fact.  At one funeral  I had to play and sing "Ghost Riders in the Sky," complete with "whoopie-ti-yi-yays" and "whoopie-ti-yi-yos," which are really at their most apropos when sung by a thirteen-year-old girl without the slightest hint of a western twang in her voice. My mom's been at in the business a little longer, so she's done a few even more bizarre things. She's played and sung "When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along." She's done "Sixty-Five Love Affairs" by  Paul Davis.  She and my dad together have played and sung "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," about twenty-five years ago, before the song was repopularized by the movie The Lion King. (The "mourners" sang along in parts. It was surreal, my parents said) . My mom thinks the single most bizarre piece of music she's ever performed at a funreral was the R& B song "Me and Mrs. Jones." No one in the funeral had the surname "Jones." To each his own.

In conclusion, may each day of your lifetime be a good day, and good night.



  1. Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber is beautiful. I've had quite a musical day myself, thanks to our Irish friend.

    I like that meme.

  2. We'll have to get Alexis to post some of her singing soon.

  3. Paul, I sing like a pretty good eleven-year-old. That's probably why they want me for the cartoon. Someone who sings like an eleven-year old but is a little smarter than most kids of that age is a valuable commodity , apparently, in the animation industry.

  4. Hey, there's lots of money to be made if you have a youthful appearance and voice and don't have to abide by any laws protecting minors. I think it's cool!

  5. I think we seriously need a few videos or at least audios of Knotty.

    1. Hey! I posted three videos on my music blog! But seriously, you don't want to see me live on a Web cam.

  6. I love Weber's "Pie Jesu' and love playing the violin part on it. A lot of the better music we'll ever hear has been composed, and much of it before the present century, but as far as today's music versus the works of the masters and all, Andrew Lloyd Webber it the ball out of the park with that one.

    Webber may himself one day be considered one of the masters -- I don't know. My relatives argue about him a lot. Some of them consider that his music is too similar and that there's too little variation from one Webber song to the next. maybe the same could be said of Bach or Mozart, whose styles both are so distinct that it takes no more than four majors to identify the composer on most of their works. I'm not sure that having a distinct style is a derogative.

    Besides, I'm not even sure that his individual works are all that similar. For example, could a musicologist who lived in a bubble or was from another planet identify "King Herod's Song" from JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR and "Pie Jesu" as having been written by the same composer? I'm not sure the person could. I love "King Herod's Song," by the way, although probably more because of the lyrics than for the music, although the tune perfectly suits the words.

    1. I hadn't thought about it but you're right... "King Herod's Song" and "Pie Jesu" are vastly different pieces by Weber. I like 'em both, but I could probably do without ever seeing or hearing almost anything in "Phantom Of The Opera" again. I had a roommate in college who ruined it for me... and the same year, I saw it on Broadway with the choir I was in. The only song I like is "All I Ask Of You". Barbra Streisand's version is why I like it... and I'm not even much of a Streisand fan.