Music plays such a soothing, healing, spiritual and energising role in our lives from our earliest days that it makes perfect sense it is also an essential part of our funerals. In her new autobiography, Time of My Life, music guru Myf Warhurst beautifully sums up why music is so important to us:
“It connects us, consoles us, lifts us up and helps us make sense or our place in the world”. She goes on to say that music “offers us mere mortals a way to access feelings and make sense of our thoughts, at times when we might not have the emotional or intellectual language to do so on our own”.
In the case of funerals, music sets the mood—sad, serious, uplifting, perhaps elements of all three. Where the funeral is to be held, and the personality of the deceased, will undoubtedly influence your choice of music. You may want songs that reflect different sentiments at various points in the service, possibly finishing with a song of hope.
Funeral venue, as well as personal preference and budget, will also play a part in deciding whether to opt for recorded or live music, including instrumentalists, soloists, choirs or groups. For friends or family with musical talent, performing during the funeral can be an incredibly touching, if difficult final gift to their loved one.
While hymns are no longer the only music considered “suitable” to funerals, many people still choose these due to the funeral venue, as a mark of their faith, a comforting tradition and/or a link with the hereafter and something greater than ourselves. This can be very significant for many as the death of a loved one makes us consider our own future, our own mortality and the meaning of life.
Amazing Grace, Abide with Me, How Great Thou Art, Be Thou My Vision, The Lord’s My Shepherd, The Old Rugged Cross and Lord of all Hopefulness are some of the perennial Christian hymn choices. It may surprise you to know that Ave Maria isn’t strictly a hymn, but it is certainly one of the beautiful, comforting and spiritually uplifting songs often played at funerals. Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah also falls into this category.
Non-religious songs often chosen include Elton John’s Candle in the Wind, a version of which he famously sang for Princess Diana’s funeral. What a Wonderful World, Tears in Heaven, Wind Beneath My Wings, Over the Rainbow, Unforgettable, Fire and Rain, You are the Sunshine of My Life and You’ll Never Walk Alone are other possibilities.
This is by no means a definitive list, and your choices will be individual and personal to you and your loved one.
Choosing the right musical accompaniment to the photographic tribute or slideshow often shown as mourners enter and leave the funeral, during the service or at the reception afterwards, is not easy. This is such a bittersweet moment of connection and memories, and it is important that the music blends seamlessly with the photos, rather than jarring. The slideshow often brings gentle laughter as well as tears, reminding mourners of happy times for and with the deceased, allowing them to commemorate and celebrate the life of their loved one in a very human, rather than an abstract way.
Research into the use of music when facing death in hospices and palliative care has consistently found that patients, family, and staff all benefit from music, which helps decrease anxiety, agitation, and pain. Music’s healing properties undoubtedly continue at the funeral and beyond.
As with all aspects of a funeral, remember, there is no “right” way to say farewell to a loved one other than what is right for those closest to them. Our team at Burstows Funerals are always here to provide information and advice about how to create a meaningful and healing experience.
Please remember that funeral services in the TS Burstows Chapel can be livestreamed for those unable to be at the funeral in person, and service recordings are also available. (We can make these services available at other venues where possible, given prior notice.)