When the Saints Go Marching In
Traditional Christian hymn popularized by Louis Armstrong in the 1930s
So if you go way back to the Middle Ages, today is the real holiday. The early Christian church began designating saints, and over time churches developed the practice of holding a feast day to honor each saint. With more time, towns began trading feasts and relics for each others’ saints, and eventually the church decided to pick a day to honor all the saints together, and now we have All Saints’ Day. It was often called Hallowmas because it featured the mass for the hallowed (i.e., holy)—in this case, the holy saints. Thus “all hallows eve,” the day before, is where the term and holiday of Halloween comes from. All Saints’ Day is, according to the Catholic Church, for all those who have obtained a beatific vision of heaven. All Souls’ Day (tomorrow, November 2) is for all the souls who have died but haven’t been purified and gone to heaven yet.
There are some lovely hymns, such as “For All the Saints” to go along with All Saints’ Day. I decided, however, to go with a selection that has no confirmed connection but a great history. “When the Saints Go Marching In” was originally a slow, reflective hymn in the American gospel tradition. When Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1938, it kicked off a new jazz standard. Several artists have recorded it since from Elvis to Tears for Fears. In New Orleans it was often played at funerals, as a dirge on the way to the cemetery and then in its more commonly known Dixieland style on the way back from the gravesite. Party on—the dead is now one of the saints to go marching in, perhaps? It became so popular that some jazz musicians began dreading it as a request and called it “The Monster.” The Preservation Hall in New Orleans charged $1 for standard requests, $2 for unusual requests, and $5 for “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Maybe they were tired of the same ol’, same ol’, so I leave you with an arrangement that shakes things up for this song: “When the Saints Go Marching In” in ten different styles.