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How Xina's father’s musical background inspired founding Gooding's Funeral Services

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How funerals with music came to Leeds

How funerals with music came to Leeds's story

Xina tells us about her father’s musical background and what inspired him to found their funeral services business

“Although he was a child from Barbados growing up in Leeds, the young Hugh Gooding enjoyed tales of the Southern Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Guyanese branches of his mother’s family. Tales of talented artists, singers and musicians, who had migrated from Barbados to North and South America in search of work and a better life.

Hugh was proud of his ties to his mother’s nephew Joseph Niles; one of Barbados’s most respected musical artists, also known as the Godfather of Gospel. This family fame inspired Hugh’s own love of music as a young man.

In later life, during a visit to the United States, Hugh was fortunate enough to reconnect with some of his extended family. He was invited to attend the funeral of a cousin in New Orleans. This was a seminal experience that would remain with him for the rest of his life. Hugh was so moved by this new and powerful celebration of a life, that he wanted to recapture and share this experience with others. He had a strong desire to re-create the sound, movement, energy and atmosphere back home in the UK.

When Hugh’s parents passed away, he was distressed at his inability to locate a funeral director who could arrange a New Orleans style band or Gospel Choir. His disappointment would remain with him until he later qualified as a funeral director himself. He immediately sought to make it easy for anyone to have a New Orleans Style Jazz or Gospel presence at a funeral.

Hugh would eventually combine the Gospel tradition known to him all his life, with the Jazz tradition of New Orleans. He proudly introduced this vibrant and uplifting blend of musical styles to the UK.”

Xina tells us more about this history of the “Jazz Funeral”:

“For many decades, the term ‘Jazz Funeral’ was rejected by New Orleans traditionalists who believe music is only one element of a funeral. The accepted terminology is ‘funeral with music’. This preferred term makes perfect sense for a region with Jazz at its core New Orleans Funerals include a sombre Main Line procession for family and official mourners. The Second Line procession is a happy, energetic procession made up of dancers and the general public, which tends to grow organically.

New Orleans Jazz Bands are known officially as Brass Bands. The band attending a funeral would be attached to the company to which the deceased had paid their funeral fees. This lively funeral tradition is thought to be a fusion of European Brass Band culture and the African tradition of adding music to a funeral. Using music to celebrate a life was introduced to America by enslaved people brought over from Africa.

Colourful ‘Jazz’ umbrellas started out as rather plain items. They were originally introduced to protect the energetic Second Line dancers from the fierce heat of the sun.

The use of drums, wind instruments, vocals and dance as part of the call-and-response style associated with a New Orleans Jazz Funeral is deeply embedded in the funeral traditions of countries along the West African Atlantic coast. Modern forms of Jazz and traditional Gospel music are also still very much part of everyday life for the people of the Southern American states.

Likewise, Christian Gospel music is one of the most popular musical genres amongst the West African diaspora in the USA, the Caribbean and around the world.

The music of the Caribbean itself is as rich and varied as the people who inhabit the region. From Calypso and Steel Pan music to Salsa, Soca, Merengue and Reggae; the Caribbean has horns and percussion running through its musical veins.

It is these musical traditions that our founder Hugh, so proudly brought to Leeds and that Gooding Funeral Services continues to offer to our clients today.”

Thanks Xina that was really fascinating to hear.

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