Looking for Music for a Funeral?
For some people choosing the music for their own or a loved one is easy. Songs come to mind that are favourites or speak clearly to the emotional experiences at the time or people remember songs that have been heard at a recent funeral.
For some the challenge lies in their being just too much music to choose from. For others it’s that their loved one’s choice of music is either inappropriate, inaccessible or just non-existent.
For some, from both the loved one’s experience or the person who is choosing music perspective, music is just not a large or significant part of their life. That can make choosing music difficult too.
So, I’d like to offer some tips or suggestions for choosing funeral music. I believe that there is no right or wrong choice of music as long as the music that is selected is reflective of the person’s life, in the spirit of the service that is being planned or significantly meaningful for people who are asked to choose the music. If you are asked to select the music for someone’s funeral ask yourself – and perhaps some others – the following questions:
- Has your loved one left a list of songs to choose from? If so, then work with the celebrant or clergy member to work out what songs will be a best fit for the service as a whole. If only two or three songs have been nominated it’s generally considered respectful to use those songs. Some people might add or change one song for another if there is agreement amongst other family members.
- Are there songs that best reflects the life, loves and experiences of your loved one?
- Is there a genre of music: classical, jazz, pop, hard rock or the blues for example, that the person liked or that fits the feel of the service?
- What story are you wanting or trying to convey through music? Is it about the sadness, loss and grief people are experiencing? Is it about how your loved one would want to be remembered? Or the kind of song or music they would want to set the tone for their leave taking service?
- What mood are you seeking to create? Do you want to start with a more reflective, sombre piece of music to commence; a suits your loved one’s life song; and then finished with a lighter, more upbeat song to finish the service? Or you might stick with all of one type of the listed styles.
When you really like the melody or tune of a song but you are not sure of the lyrics, I invite you to listen to the song looking at the Googled lyrics of the song. The chorus might fit – but when you listen to and read the lyrics of the verses you might find that the song you thought was a great choice might not be as fitting as you first thought.
For some, classical music is an obvious choice. But if you don’t know anything about classical music – EYES ROLL BACK IN HEAD – it’s hard. Check out this Classical Music for Funerals list from Lasting Post.
Some popular funeral songs include (and are certainly not limited to):
Songs about the love between people:
- And I Love You So – Don McLean
- Annie’s Song – John Denver
Songs about the pain and loss people might be experiencing:
- Everybody Hurts – REM
- Goodbye My Friend – Linda Ronstadt
- Never Find Another You – The Seekers
Songs of optimism and hope:
- Forever Young – Youth Group
- Over The Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
- Pure Imagination – Jacqui Evancho
- Thank You For the Music – Abba
Songs of reminiscence:
- It Was A Very Good Year – Frank Sinatra
- All Good Things – Jackson Browne
Songs in tribute to parents:
- Mama – Il Divo
- O’ My Papa – Eddie Fisher
- The World’s Greatest Mum – Johnny Chester
- Father and Son – Cat Stevens
- Dad You’re My Hero – Teresa James
- Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las
Songs about leaving:
- If you Leave Me Now – Chicago
- Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
And, one final invitation is to consider whether it matters to you or anyone else whether the song choices are ones that are heard a lot at funerals – if you’ve been to more than your share in recent times. Two songs are, and have been getting, a lot of airplay at funerals. The first is Time to Say Goodbye and the other is My Way by Frank Sinatra. As people often say to me: “He did do it his way!”
As I said earlier… it’s up to you. This post is simply about giving you some things to think about if you are asked to choose music for a funeral. Let me know if this helps!
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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
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