It looked at first glance like a band call from across the Midlands. There were trombonists of too many generations swapping stories in a car park, all in their dark suits and ties. But then you could also spot Syd Lawrence Orchestra heroes of days gone by amongst the crowd: Sue Greenway, Tony Jacobs, Terry Reaney – is that Derek Southcott? Someone said they saw Andy Taylor. There were rumours of Ellie. Tony Jacobs’ smile was everywhere. Andre, Ollie, Tony Dixon. Matt Ford’s tears were a giveaway.
And then the piper.
Nearly six years ago, he had heralded a wedding. This was a very different occasion. His lament led the hearse into the crematorium as we gathered to say our fond farewells to Roger Rae, trombonist, gentleman (first class), friend.
Sarah looked immaculate, her parents and Roger’s family gathered around her. A trombone was placed upon the coffin, and a jazz band led the gathered throng (and a very goodly sized crowd it was too) into the chapel. The local minister led us through the dignified service, till it was time for us to take our leave of Roger and then for the band to bring us back outside to the ongoing day.
Friends stood by friends. Catching up. Consoling. Remembering. Smiling, sometimes through tears and gritted teeth, and sometimes with real pleasure at a story that was very Roger. He was a stuntman in films. Some say he was in the Foreign Legion. He had a fondness for…
Ah yes, some things are best left at the graveside.
Then back to the wake. Nick Ross had brought his band, which lifted everyone with Basie & Herman & Ellington. Then there were more personal tributes: Norman Brown played Body and Soul; & Derek played Memories. But there was Too Little Time for everything, and eventually friends began to take their leave again, but not before Sarah had stood to thank everyone for being there, which had simply been our privilege.
Sarah, you are in all our thoughts and prayers. Roger, we miss you; and thank you. Rest peacefully.