Friends and relatives of the late Kathy Barnes gathered at the North Burial Grounds early Saturday morning to witness the Brown Band perform its version of Michael Jackson’s pop hit “Thriller.”
The Brown University Band, which is known for its suggestive formations, decided to push the limits of its artistic abilities in a surprise public presentation of a new arrangement. The performance, provocative in both its approach and meaning, utilized many of the cemetery’s natural features to supplement the subject matter of the song. Band members, eager to begin the festivities, hid behind gravestones in full zombie dress and make-up.
“We were greatly worried the theme and setting would be too macabre,” said student conductor William Howard ‘13. “So several band members strategically excavated grave-sites where the funeral procession was planned to stop. We used the vacant resting places as hiding spots for our performers. The additional element of surprise added an air of playfulness to the ’Living-Dead’ motif.”
“We relocated the inhabitants of the graves to a nearby playground,” added co-conductor Emilia Clary ‘14. “Invitations were sent to the bodies’ surviving kin.”
At 10:15 a.m., the funeral procession trickled into the staging area. Once the mourners had taken their respective places and the clergyman had begun his farewell, the percussion section laid down a steady rhythm to initiate the piece. Emerging from their hiding places in full costume, the flute and brass sections slowly shambled toward the surprised attendees.
The bodies of John, Nicholas and Moses Brown were used to great effect during the Brown Band’s rousing performance. A group of six tech crew members who were operating the cadavers noted that their tendency to fall apart was particularly troublesome. Despite such setbacks, the Brown Band pushed through, bringing levity and fun to an otherwise dreary funeral.
Rigina Hernandez ‘13, section leader for the clarinets, said that, “Mrs. Barnes was an alum of the Brown Band. When I first brought the idea to the other leaders, they couldn’t have been more supportive. As is our tradition, we ignored many ethical codes, as well as common decency, in order to bring joy to Providence residents.”
Reactions to the performance were mixed. While some onlookers believed the bleak funeral of Mrs. Kathy Barnes was enlivened thanks to the heartwarming and artistic rendition of the King of Pop’s number one single, others expressed discontent over trivial details like morality.
“I was trying to respectfully mourn the loss of my mother,” complained Jacob Barnes. “Instead, a trumpet player moonwalked on her casket.”
Presiding priest Father John Gorman also expressed discontent over the interruption, but his claims were promptly dismissed as jealousy.