To finish the story of my last two posts:
I went to France and I managed to meet up with Sylvain. Sylvain I met at the same time as Jim back in 2001, when the two of them were living together in La Malhoure. Sylvain’s a lot nearer my age, and he lived with Jim for about ten years. You could say he was Jim’s musical apprentice. He plays keyboard and accordian with a band called Monsieur Ogh now, as well as teaching and raising a family. The night before the funeral Jim and I stayed up late having a wee drink and he told me he planned to play a song on the accordian during Jim’s funeral: Tennessee Waltz, one of Jim’s favourites. He noticed I had my guitar with me and asked if I’d like to accompany him. We spent a fair part of the night and the next morning practising.
The plan was for some of the musicians that knew Jim to play for 30 minutes during the funeral. On the day though, some local farmers decided to protest at the price of fuel and they blocked the roads. All the French speakers and Jim’s closest family were forewarned. Unfortunately the English speakers, the rest of the musicians, live in something of a cultural bubble in France and didn’t seem to know about the protests. They missed all but the last moments of the funeral. As the only people prepared to play, Sylvain and I were called on, when they gave up waiting on the other musicians. With no time to register our surroundings, we started with Tennessee Waltz, which is about 3-4 minutes long, then after that Sylvain asked if I could play anything. I completely froze up and anything I did know was far from me then. Sylvain pulled the Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond from nowhere, which is a good shout for a Frenchman. Then after that an improvisation or two, before we settled on at least twenty minutes of an endless Tennessee Waltz. We felt quite self conscious doing that, but I’m told that it worked well, and it meant a lot to hear that song for those that arrived at the last moments. The shock of having to play for so long took all my attention though, and I felt little emotion during the funeral and the aftermath. Only later, when the late arrived musicians played in a meeting room onsite did I feel Jim’s absence and let go a few tears.