[Dixielandjazz] Jazz in Church

dhs at ev1.net dhs at ev1.net
Tue Mar 29 18:25:25 PST 2005

Dear Listers:

My father, David L. Stoddard, died on Friday, March 11 in Asheville, NC.  Many of you who know me also know my brother Ed, who is a jazz trombonist in Venice, FL.  My father heard us both play many times, and really enjoyed our music.  I feel very fortunate that he not only got to hear me play jazz with several groups, but also heard me with three concert bands and a string orchestra.

Several years ago, my father gave me a list of funeral requests.  He asked for two hymns, and also for Closer Walk.  He didn't specify how Closer Walk was to be presented, but I immediately thought of a small jazz band in which Ed and I would play.

By coincidence, I had an eye operation on March 8 which involved injecting an air bubble into my eye to keep my retina stable while it was healing up.  People with air bubbles can't fly, because the eye can't tolerate changes in cabin pressure.  I wound up driving from Round Rock, TX to Weaverville, NC, a very long trip but one which made dragging a tuba along a snap.  Flying with one is a major chore.  As I expected, Ed and I formed the backbone of our jazz group.

Robin Henning and Michael Mills, two of my University of North Carolina friends, also attended the funeral.  They both played in my UNC dixieland band in the early 1970s, and I asked them both to bring horns and play.  Robin played tenor sax and Michael played trombone.  Oddly enough, while I had seen them both many times over the years, they had not seen each other since our last Imperial Jazz Band gig together in May, 1972.  

I found Bill Cunningham to play banjo.  Bill is an Asheville bluegrass fiddler, but once played banjo for a dixieland band.  At my suggestion, he used a 5-string banjo with the fifth string removed.  The rector of Trinity Episcopal Church was a little unsure of the seemliness of jazz in church, and I suspect he let things go ahead because Closer Walk was a specific request from my father.  

When the time came, things went very well indeed.  The band jelled with one run-through before the memorial service.  At the service itself, Closer Walk wafted out into the church, aided by nice live acoustics.   Both the ensemble passages and the solos sounded just fine, and we got many good comments afterward.  I am quite sure it was just what my father wanted, and I am pleased that we were able to help honor his memory.  It was my third jazz funeral, and for obvious reasons, a very meaningful one for me.

Dave Stoddard
Round Rock, TX 

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