Jazz Funeral celebration is 'Calling All Mourners'

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Dan Ellis

A New Orleans-style Jazz Funeral will parade through downtown Eureka Springs on Dec. 21. The event is hosted by Louisiana native Dan Ellis of Eureka Springs, who also organizes many of Eureka's Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day festivities.

A jazz funeral is a New Orleans traditional funeral with music. The jazz funerals typically begin with a march of family, friends and a brass band. Music is normally somber at the beginning of the march, and once the ending is near and friends say their final goodbyes, the music becomes more upbeat. Ellis intends for the jazz funeral to be intended for himself, even though he is, of course, still living.

In 2009, Ellis began planning his funeral and set the date in conjunction with the end of the Mayan calendar -- Dec. 21. He wanted this to be his jazz funeral date whether "he be dead or he be alive."

Several pubs around town will take part in the Jazz Funeral festivities: an "Irish Wake" will be held at the Rowdy Beaver Den, complete with eulogy and gospel singing; "Funeral Ceremonies" staging "Roasts and Toasts" types of remembrances will be held at the Pied Piper Tavern; a "Viking Funeral," complete with ashes and burning ship, will be held at New Delhi Cafe.

Twenty of Ellis' friends will be dressed in tuxedos and will partake as pallbearers and greeters for each of the three venues. Women who want to volunteer and participate are encouraged to wear all black and become "professional mourners." The ladies will attempt to "out wail" each other at a Wailing Contest at the Pied Piper Tavern, Ellis says in an email.

The procession to the "Funeral Reception and Reincarnation," which will return to the Rowdy Beaver Den, will have a jazz band leading the procession. Jazz band members will be in white and black caps with red sashes, and mourners will carry black umbrellas that are to add a "special allure." A "second line" procession is encouraged by all that are unfamiliar with the funeral to follow the lead procession and become a part of the funeral.

The procession will slow-shuffle its way from pub to pub with Ellis reappearing at the Rowdy Beaver Den as part of his reincarnation.

"If you haven't been to New Orleans to see and participate in a Jazz Funeral, here is your chance," Ellis said.

For more information visit www.JazzFuneral.DanEllis.Net or call 479-981-9551.

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