Choosing Music For Funerals
Music is such an emotive part of any service, a favourite song or artist instantly brings back memories of times past. If the family are lucky, their loved one will have left clear instructions as to the pieces required, however, this is rarely the case! The family are left to sift through a lifelong collection of music, from old LP’s to cassette tapes to CD’s and possibly an iTunes or Spotify account. This in itself is not a bad thing as there is often real healing and closure in the family laughing and crying together at memories stirred by some old forgotten track.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what music is acceptable in a modern ceremony taken by a celebrant. Generally speaking, there will be three pieces of music:
A piece of entry music that sets the tone for the rest of the service – is it to be a happy and joyful celebration of a person’s life or maybe a more solemn and respectful atmosphere.
A piece of music for reflection, this is usually a quieter more thoughtful piece with words that are meaningful and give the family something to focus on as they process the fact that they are nearing the time to say goodbye to their loved one.
A piece of music for the ending and exit from the service, this is generally more upbeat and often acts as a welcome release from the confines of the chapel. Many families choose something that really reflects the personality of their loved one, making a statement about their attitude to life, or leaving everyone with a smile on their face.
If music is an important factor, there is usually time for a fourth track or the inclusion of a hymn, perhaps towards the beginning of a service. It has to be decided whether it is more important to sing, listen to music or to hear more details of a person’s life story and listen to family tributes or speakers.
Some of the most memorable pieces of music and funerals are those that challenge the norm. If a piece of music really reflects the personality I would always say use it! One such piece was chosen for the reflection time of the service and instead of the usual quiet song, the piece chosen was Night On Bare Mountain by Mussorgsky, a stirring piece for a lady who was slightly eccentric and a huge classical music fan.
Another memorable occasion was again in the reflection time, the lady’s family had chosen The Birdie Song by The Tweets, a song that she was always the first one up and dancing to, everyone had huge smiles on their faces as the happy memories came flooding back.
Sometimes, there are difficult family dynamics and situations and the family choose to have predominately music in place of long eulogies and poems. It is surprising how much of a picture of a person’s life is given by listening to just a short eulogy and five or six of their all time favourite tracks.
We often cling onto songs that were meaningful in our youth, maybe memories of a holiday, a first date or wedding or maybe just happier times. We all have a ‘sound track’ of our lives, it is probably difficult to narrow this epic score down to two or three tracks, but it would be a really good starting point and so helpful for family and friends if we only spent a little time discussing this with them what this soundtrack may be!
Apart from the limitless collection of beautiful classical and instrumental tracks available, there are favourite songs and artists that come up time and again and rightly so – tracks such as:
I did it my way – Frank Sinatra
Somewhere Over The Rainbow – (many versions)
Visiting Hours – Ed Sheeran
Wind Beneath My Wings – Westlife
Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
Dancing Queen – Abba
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
All Things Bright and Beautiful
I will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
In My Life – The Beatles
Fields Of Gold – Eva Cassidy
But never be afraid of the unusual, the personal, the meaningful!!
Never Enough – Loren Allred
Love and Affection – Joan Armatrading
Out Of Africa – John Barry
Alone Yet Not Alone – Joni Eareckson Tada
Elysium – Lisa Gerrard
A Hundred Thousand Angels – Bliss
Ride A White Swan – T.Rex
Human – Rag And Bone Man
Jealous Of The Angels – Donna Taggart
And the quirky and humorous that perfectly reflect a personality, there is of course the classic – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Monty Python, but other tracks that worked really well are:
Bring Me Sunshine – Morecambe And Wise
Top Gear Theme – Jessica
Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye – Gracie Fields
I’m The Guy Who Found The Lost Chord – Jimmy Durante
You Make My Pants Want To Get Up and Dance – Dr Hook
Time Warp – Rocky Horror Show
Birdie Song – The Tweets
End of The Line – Travelling Willburys
Whatever the final choice of tracks is there is no right or wrong, a funeral celebration is all about the person – your loved one and their life!
Choosing Music For Funerals