I love a parade! Who doesn’t? There are homecoming parades, Thanksgiving parades, and parades for the Fourth of July. But the parade I participating in was a jazz band parade in New Orleans.
New Orleans is known as the “birthplace of jazz” and jazz has become a traditional music suitable for almost every occasion there. There are jazz bands at weddings, conventions, parties, celebrations of all kinds — even funeral processions.
The Storyville Stompers are a brass band that plays traditional New Orleans music, the kind that jazz and Dixieland are based on. They are known for their performances at Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, The French Quarter Festival and numerous other national and international celebrations.
When they are around, everything else stops.
The band parades on foot through the streets of the city with a drum-major leading as only a New Orleans drum-major can, with a lively step and a waving parasol that has become a legendry part of the New Orleans tradition.
When bands paraded in early times, children often followed behind imitating the high-stepping, umbrella-twirling drum major. Soon a second line of paraders formed, a line following after the band and a tradition known as “second lining” was born.
Attendees at a conference I attended in New Orleans had to walk several blocks from the hotel to a meeting at the Aquarium. Why walk when you can dance? And so the conference planners hired a traditional jazz band and before we knew it, we were high stepping and second lining as if we had been doing it for a lifetime.
It is hard to stand still when the Stompers play. No one can avoid dancing along. When a band plays jazz New Orleans style, the only thing that matters is having a good time.
We prepared. We bought kazoos to play and umbrellas to twirl. Here we were, a group of writers, nerds, and old folks, dancing through the streets of a city like a bunch of giddy kids.
Traffic stopped for us, tourists stopped for us, cameras flashed, and we boogied on. In New Orleans they have grown accustomed to street performances and only smile, wave and applaud, wishing they could join in or maybe even dancing right along.
I twirled my umbrella and danced just like everyone else. After all, what good is life if you can’t have fun? We marched into the aquarium, past the fish and aquatic animals and into the room where our event was being held.
I don’t know if the creatures were accustomed to such festivities or not, but they seemed not to mind. It was hard to play my kazoo and twirl my umbrella at the same time. Maybe I’m one of those people who can’t walk and chew gum without forgetting to do one of them.
We all made it in spite of traffic, rough sidewalks, gawking tourists, flashing cameras, heat and humidity, and hysterical laughter. Now, if anyone should ever ask, I can say that I’ve been second lining in New Orleans .
I really doubt that it will ever come up, though. It never has before.
Life is short and the world is a small place. Someday I can say, “And then there was a time in New Orleans when I went second lining with the Storyville Stompers Brass Band.”
I’m sure when I tell about it, the grandkids will simply say, ‘We’ve heard that story before, grandma. Tell us another one.”