The tradition of brass bands in New Orleans, Louisiana dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Traditionally, New Orleans brass bands could feature various instrumentations, often including trumpets, trombones, (alto tenor)horn, sousaphones and drums. The music played by these groups was often a mix of European-styled military band music and dance music.
The brass bands accompanied dances, so they also played music for dances like:
Lancers JSS0434 , JSS0435
These dances were played in a way the dancers could shuffle and strut, so they never march in four-square (European) fashion.
The brass bands played always the pop(ular) tunes of the time.
SECOND LINE (PARADES)
In New Orleans the second line parades have a long history together with the Social (Aide) & Pleasure Club of the neighborhood of the town. The S&P Clubs are today, a mere shadow of their former selves, and known not as the fore runners of the insurance industry in Louisiana, but as the, “Keepers of the Second Line Tradition.”
After the Civil War, it was much easier to get musical instruments, so newly freed African Americans, began to form marching bands that consisted of only brass instruments with the lone exception of a bass and tom tom drums. In the late 1890’s and the early 1900’s these brass bands began to be asked to perform at Jazz funerals. Jazz funerals were at the heart of an early African slave religious practice, of celebrating of the life of a deceased person.
During the 1980’s, more clubs began to be formed for the sole purposes of “parading” and not for the “social aid” aspect. A new wrinkle had been born in the culture. The club’s purpose was not to render aid for burial, but to be the actual social fabric, the bonding agent as it were, of the members, to the community. These new clubs were now strictly for the pleasure of the members, therefore the category that they would operate would also change. They no longer rendered aid or benefit to themselves or others.
Starting in the late 1990’s, another page was turned in, what is now known as the, “Main Line culture”, when Kings and Queens started to appear, on the parade routes with the groups. Most of the royalty, are from other clubs or older members that are honored by the club, but some have taken to honoring the city’s influential, and famous.
The parade contains of different pieces:
- First you got the Grand Marshal who leads the brass band through the streets of the city.
- After the Grand Marshal comes the brass band.
- Than you got the Main line
- And after them you see the second line
Playing a very important role in the brass band is the grand marshal, who may be a band member or a member of the same social or benevolent club as the deceased. His demeanour – head erect, expression solemn, dressed in a black tuxedo, white gloves, black hat held respectfully in his hand while taking slow but measured steps – is crucial for the dignity of the procession of the way to the graveside, and his jauntiness and energy set the tone for the band and the dancing second-liners alike on the return journey that announces to the community the good news that another good soul has gone on home.
Music of the brass band
The name second line, is also the name of a “unique dance”, performed to the beat of New Orleans’ traditional jazz. The dance is an evolved version of an old African dance known as the, “Bambula”.
In the second line parades the brass bands play danceable music.
Think about songs like Second Line, Bourbon Street Parade, Joe Avery’s Piece, No it ain’t my fault, Mean Joe Green, Kermit’s Second line, Armstrong on Parade.
A Main Line is the main section or the members of the actual club, that has the permit to parade. The main line is usually the Social (Aid) & Pleasure Club of the neighborhood in which they are parading.
The fans, admirers and curious of the club members are the “second line” or part two of this planned street parade. These parades have come to be called and known by this fact.
From January 6 (also known as the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the end of the Christmas Season and marks the start of Carnival season) until Mardi Gras a lot of Mardi Gras parades are planed in New Orleans each year. Of course brass bands playing in these parades.
We play Mardi Gras tunes like, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Big Chief, Iko Iko.
The basic formula of a funeral was this:
– The brass band assembled with members of the burial association at the lodge hall or headquarters. There the procession formed, the grand marshal or marshal’s headed the band, lodge standard-bearers next, and lodge members, loosely assembled behind.
The snare drummer would muffled his snares for the dirges and hymns.
The band would play a hymn (Lead me savior, In the sweet bye and bye, In the upper garden) in dirge tempo, to establish a mood of mourning and solemnity.
– The procession moved in march tempo to the funeral home, church, or home where the body waited, playing familiar hymns and other pieces as medium-tempo 2/4 marches.
– At the church the band played an appropriate hymn in solemn chorale style.
– Than the band waited outside the church, not playing at the time, for the service to conclude.
After the service, the band reassembled and played a dirge (like Fallen heroes, Nearer my God to thee)) to signal the struggles, the hardships, the ups and downs of life, while the body was carried from the church to the hearse.
– At the cemetery (or at a predetermined point, if the cemetery were too distant for the cortege to walk), the band moved aside, forming the procession into a double rank to create a corridor through which the hearse passed. The snare drummer played a long roll.
This moment was called “turning the body loose”
– According to the wishes of the church and the family, the band played a hymn at the graveside (Just a closer walk with thee). The minister might preach again and conduct hymn-singing. A trumpeter of the band might be asked to play “taps” as a solo.
– Outside the cemetery, the band regrouped while rites of interment were performed. The snare drummer retightened his snares and started a cadence at a bright march tempo.
At this time jazz tunes were popularly supposed to reflect the character of the deceased and his family.
Notorious rounders were treated with Oh, didn’t he ramble or I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you rascal you. In later years purportedly naughty widows were admonished with Oh, lady be good.
– Once the band had moved a respectful distance from the cemetery, it played marches and popular tunes. This segment of the procession satisfied second liners and association members accompanying the band, signalled the obsequy’s end, and formed a final act of celebration.
– back at the lodge hall the band dispersed, to turn home or stop for refreshments inside the hall.
When someone dies, the community gathers to say farewell, a cutting loose of the soul from earthly ties. The ceremony begins at the wake, at the home of the deceased or inside the funeral home.
Word history: The history of the word dirge illustrates how a word with neutral connotations, such as direct, can become emotionally charged because of a specialized use. The Latin word dīrige is a form of the verb dīrigere, “to direct, guide,” that is used in uttering commands. In the Office of the Dead dīrige is the first word in the opening of the antiphon for the first nocturn of Matins: “Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam,” “Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight.” The part of the Office of the Dead that begins with this antiphon was named Dīrige in Ecclesiastical Latin. This word with this meaning was borrowed into English as dirige, first recorded in a work possibly written before 1200. Dirige was then extended to refer to the chanting or reading of the Office of the Dead as part of a funeral or memorial service. In Middle English the word was shortened to dirge, although it was pronounced as two syllables. After the Middle Ages the word took on its more general senses of “a funeral hymn or lament” and “a mournful poem or musical composition,” and developed its one-syllable pronunciation.
These include the wake of inspirational gospel tunes, followed by the dirges, as the crowd accompanies the casket en route to the final resting place, and the joyful sendoff as the preacher cuts loose the body and the soul of the parishioner goes on home to be with the Lord.
The Hurricane Brassband plays the Fallen Heroes.
SPIRITUALS and GOSPELS
Of all the bodies of folk song that have survived in America to the present century spirituals are probably the most extensive; they are certainly, in one form or another, the best known. As ‘negro
spirituals’ they have entered church and concert hall, have influenced composers from Dvorak to Virgil Thompson and have been sung in schools and by choirs throughout the English-speaking world.
Yet, in spite of their widespread popularity through publication and performance, their origins are obscure and the ways in which they were first sung are probably unknown. Even the term ‘spirituals’ was not widely used by Blacks, the word ‘Anthem’ being much more widespread and surviving to the 1950s in rural areas.”
-Oliver, Harrison, and Bolcom
Gospel, Blues, and Jazz
Anthem music, later called ‘spirituals’, and much later ‘gospel’ music, while having a direct and vital link to Africa is distinctly American music. A music so much a part of the fabric of the sum of American music that much of the popular idioms of today can be traced, with little effort, to gospel music
The Jazz Funeral
Originally printed in The Soul of New Orleans
One of the more distinguished aspects of New Orleans culture is the jazz funeral. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe noted in 1819 that New Orleans jazz funerals were “peculiar to New Orleans alone among all American cities.” The late jazzman Danny Barker, writing in his book Bourbon Street Black, noted the funeral is seen as “a major celebration. The roots of the jazz funeral date back to Africa. Four centuries ago, the Dahomeans of Benin and the Yoruba of Nigeria, West Africa were laying the foundation for one of today’s most novel social practices on the North American Continent, the jazz funeral.”
The secret societies of the Dahomeans and Yoruba people assured fellow tribesmen that a proper burial would be performed at the time of death. To accomplish this guarantee, resources were pooled to form what many have labeled an early form of insurance.
When slaves were brought to America, the idea of providing a proper burial to your fellow brother or sister remained strong. As time passed, these same concepts that were rooted in African ideology became one of the basic principles of the social and pleasure club. As did many fraternal orders and lodges, the social and pleasure club guaranteed proper burial conditions to any member who passed. These organizations were precursors to debit insurance companies and the concept of burial insurance.
The practice of having music during funeral processions, Danny Barker said, was added to the basic African pattern of celebration for most aspects of life, including death. As the brass band became increasingly popular during the early 18th century, they were frequently called on to play processional music. Eileen Southern in The Music of Black American wrote, “On the way to the cemetery it was customary to play very slowly and mournfully a dirge, or an ‘old Negro spiritual’ such as ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ but on the return from the cemetery, the band would strike up a rousing, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ or a ragtime song such as ‘Didn’t He Ramble.’ Sidney Bechet, the renowned New Orleans jazzman, after observing the celebrations of the jazz funeral, stated, “Music here is as much a part of death as it is of life.”