“Here they come, here they come,” Louise Acampora, the white-gloved leader of the Red Mike Festival Band announced. A coffin, draped with an American flag, emerged through the funeral home’s doors. The Italian ensemble began a new song while funeral attendees filed into the street.
Eight men in black suits loaded the coffin containing Sze Yu Chen, a World War II veteran who had died at age 101, into a hearse.
The tradition of Italian brass bands playing at Chinese funerals on Mulberry Street arose out of the proximity of the Chinese and Italian communities in Manhattan. As Chinatown stretched into Little Italy, Italian funeral parlors were taken over by Chinese owners. Because it was traditional for Chinese dignitaries to have brass at their funerals, the Italian bands remained a staple.
Mrs. Acampora succeeded her husband, Michael Acampora, known as Red Mike, who died in 2004, as the band leader, and she now pilots the ensemble through about 150 Chinese funerals a year, as well as other events and festivals.
As the Cadillac flower car pulled away, the rest of the procession lined.........
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