By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
I will never forget my parents taking me as a child to Frank Baker’s 1200-seat Attic Restaurant in West Vancouver by Park Royal Shopping Centre. I loved the delicious ‘all-you-can-eat’ smorgasbord, the endless Tiffany lamps, and James Bond’s Aston Martin car with all the gadgets. My strongest memory though was following Frank Baker and Lance Harrison’s Dixieland Band in a congo-line around the restaurant as they trumpeted out ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’. Although Lance Harrison rarely performed outside the Vancouver area, he was featured in the CBC TV special ‘A Visit to New Orleans,’ filmed during a 1971 trip to the birthplace of jazz. Dixieland Music, sometimes called Hot Jazz or New Orleans Jazz, became synonymous with the song “When the saints come marching in”. This song became so connected with New Orleans that they even named their NFL Football team “New Orleans Saints”.
Louis Armstrong was the first person in the 1930s to turn this Afro-American spiritual into a nationally-known pop tune. Fats Domino, and Billy Haley & the Comets, turned it into a Rock and Roll rendition. Elvis Presley sang ‘When the Saints…’ in his Hollywood film “Frankie and Johnny.” Even the Beatles recorded it. Because of its dominant popularity, Jazz musicians in New Orleans charged 500% more than for other songs just to play it. I never realized back at Frank Baker’s Attic that the song was originally a funeral dirge, speaking about people dying and go to heaven. “O Lord I want to be in that number” expressed the desire to be ready to meet one’s Maker.
Who can forget the scenes of devastation just four years ago in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city? With 80% of the city flooded, many wondered if New Orleans was finished. Out of the ashes has arisen an unlikely football team that has given hope back to a crushed people. It took the New Orleans Saints 21 years to win their first season and 34 years to win a single playoff game. Who can forget the Super Bowl XLIV scene with Saints Quarterback Drew Brees holding his son after the Saints had a surprise 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts? The sports commentator’s final comments were “The Miracle in Miami has happened. The Saints have won the Superbowl!” As Phillip P. Lasseigne, Daily Vidette Features Editor, put it, “When people in the Gulf Coast lost their jobs, their houses and their loved ones after the hurricane, they turned to the one thing that had always been there for them for both the good times and the bad: the Saints.”
I had no idea that Saints Quarterback Drew Brees had a strong faith in Jesus Christ that has shaped his dedication and integrity both on the field and off. To Brees, this dedication means that “you trust in the Lord, you trust that he has a plan for your life, you trust that he is never going to put anything in front of you that is too hard for you, or he would not put it in front of you. No matter what comes your way, you will be able to overcome it. It will make you stronger. It will give you the ability to influence in a positive way so many other people. I want to give back what’s been given to me.”
Besides QB Drew Brees, everyone was talking about the other Quarterback Tim Tebow who was in a 30-second Superbowl ad seen by 100 million viewers. Despite initial concerns by some, the ad turned out to be a lighthearted celebration of family life. Tim Tebow, who was almost not born because of pregnancy complications, became a Heisman Trophy winner and selflessly serves others on medical mission trips to the Philippines. Tim Tebow and Drew Brees truly are Saints who come marching in.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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