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Concertinas And Funerals


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Something I had never encountered before is being asked to play my concertina at a burial. Sang funerals for many years but concertina requested in particular, no.

 

A coffee house owner in Fitchburg called me up requesting I play and sing Danny Boy a solo and have my band mates in Acadian Gumbo join in on Ashogan Fairwell (sorry 'bout the spelling) at the graveside service for his mother. I had to get over my aversion to Danny Boy and work up an arrangement. It was very nice experience with beautiful weather, good words and family saying goodbye .

 

At the reception I suggested after a lovely lunch that Acadian Gumbo might play a few tunes in honor of the departed. Boy did we cut loose! The family and friends were very happy. We got requests like When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and by gum we just did it. Not a bad way to be remembered. They say she was in her day a real "cracker" :o . I was assured that up in these here parts that's a very good thing indeed.

Edited by Mark Evans
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Something I had never encountered before is being asked to play my concertina at a burial. Sang funerals for many years but concertina requested in particular, no.
Well, I never played for an actual graveside service, but when my father-in-law passed away two years ago, my wife & I had all the immediate family and out-of-town relatives over after the services (we live closest to the cemetery) and they insisted on hearing me play some of my father-in-law's favorites.
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I've not played at a burial, but back in 1991 was asked to play at the cremation of Frank Fuller, who died aged 80. I had only known him for three years, after buying his brother's MacCann Duet. Frank, who had no relatives (his wife had died a few years previously) had been staying with friends when he died in his sleep.

 

I heard firstly from Iris Bishop (we visited Frank; Iris, Charlotte and myself on his 80th Birthday) that Frank had left me his concertina, and that Frank's friends wanted me to play at the cremation service. I agreed to do this, and thought that it might be nice to play Frank's Duet, which I picked up a couple of days before the service. At this point, I should mention that it was not in a standard tuning, making playing "very interesting" for an "ear-player" like myself. So, I set to, and practised.

 

Come the day of the service, I played "The Last Rose of Summer", the only tune which Frank and I had in common (Frank played mainly Marches), the performance went well, and was much appreciated. Later, when I got home, I tried to play the tune again; it was an absolute disaster, and I made mistakes everywhere. Still, I got it right when it mattered, and I like to think that Frank was up there, watching over me, and helping me find all the right notes.

 

Thanks, Frank.

 

Peter.

 

PS - I've kept Frank's concertina in the original tuning, and it's still a challenge!

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Less than a month before the death of my partner, he and I were hired to sing at a funeral- Byron played concertina and I sang, yes, Danny Boy. That, and Amazing Grace. We were surprised at how much we found we enjoyed Danny- it's been over-maudlin-ized but we managed to sing it in a way we loved.

 

A month later we sang Amazing Grace at Byron's funeral, sans concertina. Now I find THAT song incredibly difficult to sing!

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I've not played at a burial, but back in 1991 was asked to play at the cremation of Frank Fuller, who died aged 80.

 

Peter was also present at the service for Glad Thorp last year. We had something like 20 concertinas playing Lord of the Dance to escort the coffin into the Church. We played another hymn as part of the service, but we had to admit defeat on Abide with me, when the Church Organist played in a different key and we could not compete. The undertakers were so moved that they requested us to play again going into the crematorium.

 

- John Wild

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Less than a month before the death of my partner, he and I were hired to sing at a funeral- Byron played concertina and I sang, yes, Danny Boy. That, and Amazing Grace. We were surprised at how much we found we enjoyed Danny- it's been over-maudlin-ized but we managed to sing it in a way we loved.

 

A month later we sang Amazing Grace at Byron's funeral, sans concertina. Now I find THAT song incredibly difficult to sing!

 

That is one of the saddest things I have seen posted in some time. I hate doing funerals and am quite lucky to have over 20 pipers to job out and avoid doing these engagements anymore. The toughest was for a very good brother of mine, who marched in the Racine Kilties with me. His mother adored me (after all, I was the drum major of the Mighty "Mad Plaid", hence the Mad Major website and all) and was just like a real mother, maybe a bit more as she was one of our most beloved corps moms. My adopted mum who raised me up had just passed a couple of years previous, so playing my friend's mum's funeral was very tough.

 

Of course, they wanted Danny Boy and Amazing Grace at the gravesite, on a bright but bitter cold morn. The other brother is a Marine from Nam and knew I would make it, but my buddy Joey knew me better. I almost broke down, but played steadfastly, gave my salute and marched off to the car to cry my eyes out for about 15 minutes or so. No one saw, but everybody was choked up at this loss. Working the honor guard was also tough, but had to be done (a brother Kilty at the head and foot of the casket during the entire viewing at the funeral home). We have always buried our honored dead this way, since the 1930s when we were founded, but not always with the piper and never the Pipe Major/ DM on pipes.

 

Funerals are tough, most especially when it is someone dear.

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Funerals are tough, most especially when it is someone dear.

 

Yes they are, and you were upstanding and honored your buddys mom.

 

It is one of the most important things we do.

 

Alison, thank you for sharing your words with us. From now on I will add what I have observed of your grace and dignity to others I highly admire when singing Amazing Grace.

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Interesting that this Topic should be started just now. Just last month (would have been "this month" if I'd written this last night) a friend -- and long-time seaman -- from the local shanty choir died after a long bout with cancer. He was clear till the end, and less than an hour before his final passing he reminded members of the choir who were with him of his special request... that we sing the Mingulay Boat Song at his funeral.

 

We discussed this at our regular practice which fell between his death and the funeral. Some thought the Farewell Shanty would be more appropriate, but others insisted that we must do the song he requested. In the end we agreed that we should do both. I thought both should be done a capella, but the others insisted on my concertina to keep them in tune on Mingulay, with an intro and tag end on my low A whistle (we sang in D). The Farewell was done a capella, with a slight change to the last verse:

When my time is over,

Haul away for Heaven

God be by my side.

became
Now his time is over,

Haul away for Heaven

God be by his side.

It felt good. At the reception afterward we received many compliments and thanks, particularly from the family, and I'm sure that if Jens could hear us, he was pleased.

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Something I had never encountered before is being asked to play my concertina at a burial. Sang funerals for many years but concertina requested in particular, no. (snip)

At the reception I suggested after a lovely lunch that Acadian Gumbo might play a few tunes in honor of the departed. Boy did we cut loose! The family and friends were very happy.

 

Nine years ago I was asked to sing The Farewell Shanty at the funeral of Harry Boardman, great Lancastrian singer and Anglo player. It's very hard to sing when you've a lump in your throat the size of a football, but I managed it somehow. I particularly admired Harry's son Tim, who overcame his own grief sufficiently to announce: "If my Dad were here today he'd be saying, 'let's see no more of these glum faces, let's get down to the pub and have some damn good music'." The session that followed was memorable.

 

Last Summer I elected to play at my Mother's funeral the one of my own compositions she'd always asked for, a melodeon air called The Blossom and the Rain. I couldn't bring myself to play it on gigs for months after that, but I did last night in Birmingham (one of the very best folk clubs in the world, incidentally), and felt at one with the tune more than ever before. What is music about but connecting with our deepest emotions?

Brian

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Hi folks.

 

I have played at too many wakes for my liking but always find it a relief after

the service to really let go with a few bright tunes.

 

My father remembered that as a child he went to his uncle's funeral, about 90 years ago.

His Uncle was a Sea Captain, under sail all his life, and the church was filled with a pretty ragged bunch of old shipmates, who 'took over' the service with an impromptu shanty session. This caused a huge stir back in those days and Dad always remembered it with great fondness.

 

As for playing at funeral services...... not yet but would be happy to do so.

 

I do, however, fully intend to play at my own funeral, albeit from a recording.

 

No dirges I might add !!

 

What would you folks like played to send you off ??

 

Dave

Edited by Dave Prebble
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What would you folks like played to send you off ??

 

Well (if anyone is taking notes), on the way in, it would have to be "Lichfield Tattoo", which I learned from Flos Headford, at Sidmouth, many years ago.

 

I've had a lot of fun with this tune, and remember playing this, with Flos at the 1991 Wadebridge Folk Festival; we'd both finished our bookings, and were unwinding at the late lunch-time session. I started swinging the box, which obviously produced the "Dopler Effect"; Flos tried to do the same with the fiddle, failed, and we (plus the rest of the musicians) ended up laughing a lot :lol: . It should come with a health warning "Don't try this when sober!".

 

On the way out, some gentle air; I don't play many of these, so will have to postpone the event until I've learned something that I really like. Could be English, Irish or Welsh :unsure: ; I'm open to suggestions.

 

Peter.

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What would you folks like played to send you off ??

 

Well (if anyone is taking notes), on the way in, it would have to be "Lichfield Tattoo", which I learned from Flos Headford, at Sidmouth, many years ago.

 

I've had a lot of fun with this tune, and remember playing this, with Flos ..... It should come with a health warning "Don't try this when sober!".

Peter.

 

Point of order Mr Chairman !

 

'Being sober' and playing tunes with 'Flos Headford' do not belong in the same sentence :lol:

 

 

I'm thinking about what tunes I would play - spoilt for choice - still, I hope to have another 49 years to make up my mind

 

Dave

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'Being sober' and playing tunes with 'Flos Headford' do not belong in the same sentence :lol:

 

I like to try and push the boundaries, just to see what is possible! I won't say what Imogen (then partner) said when she eventually found him! :o :angry: :angry: She'd been looking after Tillie for "rather longer than anticipated".

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"I did it my way." Dave?

 

On a more serious note.My good friend and fellow Masonic Friend who played Trombone with me for the Lodge Music died of Cancer recently and I would have liked to have played him out at his funeral ,but sadly was not asked.It is not something you push yourself forward for, but he would have appreciated it.

The thought was there,that's good enough.

Al

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My mother died back in 2000.

Did she leave a request for me to play something at the funeral? Did she buggery!

Instead, she left a request for me to play her favourite LP record.....selections from the Desert Song.........My Desert is Waiting !!!!!!!!!!! Leaving everybody totally flummoxed.

 

Still, mustn't talk ill of the dead.

 

 

Phil Edwards

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