I’ve always thought Christmas parties are supposed to be cheery affairs but I’ve just been to a couple where the cabaret acts seemingly wanted us to weep into our wine. Both female, of an age when they have their whole lives before them, as they say.
Somebody should have told them. You just don’t choose St James Infirmary, one of the doomiest songs ever written, as a party piece.
Hm, well. This passage of course made me think about the way the song is generally performed in second-lines — including jazz funerals — in New Orleans. Musically the tone starts out quite somber, but by the end it’s turned a corner into territory that’s raucous and frankly celebratory: Affirmation of life in the face of tragedy. It’s usually quite a danceable racket. And this, as I’ve said elsewhere, reflects the compelling thing to me they lyrics to “SJI” as it’s most frequently performed: A doomy opening that toggles to a pretty jarring declaration by the narrator that his deceased lover will never find a man like him, and then a consideration of his own future passing that is more preening than grim.
Having said all that, it’s still an odd choice for a Christmas party.