The hiatus in this and my other blogs has been due to the death of my father Brian Whitbread, who died suddenly after a stroke on August 1st 2009. Aside from dealing with the bereavement and necessary adjustments to plans, I have found it impossible writing anything more than to-do lists and the occasional few lines of poetry, but eleven days on, the family is preparing for Dad’s funeral, and I have the responsibility for providing music for the memorial service.
I find myself anticipating the memorial with some nervousness, since the event will be held outside in a woodland burial ground. To the rescue: my trusty Peavey battery-powered practise amp, bought from a penniless busker, which should do the job of providing volume without distortion to the assembled.
I have mixed feelings about this obviously, but it will be good to be with my family. The family as a whole is secular and so we are putting together a farewell event with a minimum of ritual. Nonetheless I feel that we do need some ritual elements in our collective farewell.
Funerals are for the living, not the dead. Music should say something about the man as well as about our feelings for him, and music should be able to speak of specific personal history, as well as express and release emotion.
So far I have a shortlist which includes George Gershwin, Lonnie Donegan, Humprey Lyttleton and Ella Fitzgerald, whom both my parents loved. They heard Ella sing in a packed concert at the Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
I’m also going to have to add Marty Robbins to the list. He was one of my musical connections to Dad, after listening to his records had conditioned me to enjoy country music and gunfighter ballads.
My family have already decided that there should not be a preponderance of black or gloom, and I know that playing El Paso by Marty will raise a few smiles. The world he conjured up was a desperate one, full of tragedy, love gone awry and heartbreak, much like our own, if only we were prepared to see it.