In San Francisco's Chinatown, they follow behind funeral processions and play songs like "Amazing Grace" and "Onward Christian Soldiers" on tuba and trumpet. The specific purpose to Chinese funerals is spiritual: The music helps keep the spirit close to the body until it can be buried.
But the band also draws the attention of the entire community to the funeral. It announces the death.
When I first heard this piece, I thought the concept was too bizarre to be of much value, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. I'm a big fan of public grieving. I think too much of our grief is dealt with behind closed doors, singularly or within a single family. This pulls it out into the open ... but in a beautiful way.
One of the band members, Cindy Collins, says in the piece, "Even though it comes from a sad moment, it's this triumphant moment for the person who's going on and we're sharing that with the community. What gets better than that?"