A Word In Your Ear - May 3, 2018

Roy Edmonds
Roy Edmonds
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Tony got a rousing send-off

The Saints came marching in at Carleton, led by a jazz band. It was the funeral of drummer Tony Tolley, who’d played with big names of popular music, particularly The Bachelors back in those ‘Swinging 60s’.

Tony, who with wife Alma was a family friend, also helped found the still-popular Bill Barrow Band. It was Bill and fellow musicians who gave the musical send-off Tony so deserved.

For me, it was the first time hearing a band lead a funeral procession since the early 80s, when in Singapore. I was a travelling journalist back then and, being a poor freelance, was staying in a Chinese guest-house round the corner from famous Raffles Hotel. Still, I would entertain at Raffles over ‘Singapore Slings’, with a palm-court quartet on the lawn.

Later I was roused from my afternoon siesta by a traditional Chinese band, striking up a cacophony while leading a funeral down the street below. I opened my shutters to watch and a cockatoo, in a cage across the alley, also chirped up.

The Chinese would even employ professional mourners, to grieve loudly for days, but it’s heartening to also celebrate a loved one’s happiness in life. Music helps that process. I know it did at my mother’s service. By chance they played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which was her favourite.

Our condolences go to Alma, her family and all others who grieve for recently lost loved ones. But let us remember such times should also be a celebration of their lives.

What’s more, it’s not all sad news. My Oldie magazine reports funerals are becoming cheaper, thanks to internet comparison sites.

Perhaps we’ll even adopt another Chinese tradition – keeping our own coffin in a corner of the bedroom, polished and all prepared.

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