January 30, 2005

Can A Funeral Be Hip?

One of members of Phoenix's jazz scene, Michele Horsefield Carney, passed away January 21st. She was a pianist and vocalist, and I was fortunate enough to take a few vocal lessons from her a few years back.

Her funeral was this past Thursday, and it was not like any memorial I have ever been to. A veritable who's who of talent filled the hall, and many performed during the service. When I walked in and heard Dwight Killian (bass) and Chuck Marohnic (piano) playing the prelude I knew it was going to be a hip tribute - and it was.

The pastor was the low point of the day, seeming to talk only to hear his own voice (though proclaiming God as the father of the blues, and Adam the first blues singer "Lord, that woman you gave me; she done me wrong, she done me wrong" did get a chuckle)

The best parts were the anecdotes from her life, the stories that made it a real celebration. How she was hired out of high school to oversee the installation of a radar guidance system. How she managed the twists and turns of her life. How, when she was a widowed single mother teaching voice to support her family and she shattered her wrist in an accident, the musical community where she was living at the time rallied. She was so loved and respected, other musicians signed up in shifts to come in and play for her lessons so she wouldn't have to lose her income.

And the music which was so much a part of her life.

At one point they had a recording of her singing the first verse of "With A Song In My Heart", which another great local singer, Vicki McDermitt, then finished. Though I had actually read the memorial program and knew it was coming, apparently no one else did, and there was a collective gasp from the crowd when it started.

The service finished up with a jazzed up version of "This Little Light of Mine" with an all-star band, including her son John Horsefield on drums. There is no way to make that song hip, however, even with a crowd of serious jazz heads. But it was up tempo which is a good way to end a memorial - then send everyone to the community hall for more stories and food.

On a side note, one of the common anecdotal themes was how Michele told everyone they were beautiful, in fact one lady got up and said "I thought it was just me, but now I see she did that to everyone" Except she never said that to me. I felt like standing up and telling that lady "It may not have been just you, but it wasn't everyone, either" ;-) I could have also said that she laughed all through our lessons - I have always tried to convince myself it was just because she was such a happy lady and not because of my voice......

Posted by Vox at January 30, 2005 05:00 PM | general