People are increasingly choosing to include elements in the funeral service that reflect the life of the person who has died, and it is now quite common to incorporate favourite musical compositions, both classical and contemporary, as part of the funeral.
Things to consider
Almost any music can be played at the funeral as long as copyright restrictions do not apply. Commonly, people choose hymns or play a CD of a favourite song or piece of music. There may sometimes be live music. We recommend you discuss the choice of music with whoever is leading the ceremony as their views may have to be taken into account.
We can help you to source music but if you prefer to have an organist you should ensure that they are able to play any particular hymns or songs that you have chosen. You may also want a choir at the service, just let us know and we can arrange this with the church.
We have put together a few suggestions for funeral music that you may find helpful.
Adagio in D Minor
A very beautiful and soothing composition, Albinoni’s Adagio has become one of the most popular classical pieces to be played at funerals. Its calm nobility has often been used to add emotion to films and advertising.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Cantata No.208 Sheep May Safely Graze
A gentle and calming composition that would allow mourners an interval in the service to pause and remember the life of their loved one. Bach was a family man with 20 children who dedicated his life to music, once walking 200 miles to hear a fellow organist.
Adagio for Strings
A spiritually uplifting piece of music, Barber’s intention was that this noble composition would demonstrate respect, admiration and love for other men and has been used to enhance the atmosphere of numerous films. This would be an ideal choice of music for a family to remember and pay tribute to their father.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Für Elise is the more common name for one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions, the Bagatelle in A Minor for Solo Piano. The identity of Elise is unknown but from the music the listener is in no doubt that she was beautiful and demure. The sentiment of this composition has meant that it is often used at funerals to remember a female partner.
Claire du Lune
Debussy has often been described as the master of subtlety and nuance. Claire de Lune translates as Light of the Moon and the ingenuity of this composition lies in the ease with which you can imagine the moon appearing slowly from behind a cloud as the music reveals its full sensuality. A perfect musical piece to provide a few moments of reflection during the service.
Nimrod from 'Enigma' variations
Enigma Variations – musical portraits of the composer’s friends and relatives – was Elgar’s first success even though he was over 40 years old at the time. This solemn yet uplifting music has been played on numerous state occasions, when its restrained grandeur has never failed to create a deep impression.
Fauré’s music was usually restrained and nowhere more so than in this gentle, undulating theme where he took a traditional French slow dance and added a melancholy melody. A very feminine piece of music that has been used to advertise soap and perfume, this composition could be used for the funeral service of a mother or wife.
Canon for Strings and Continuo
A simple yet haunting canon – a piece of music for several instruments which each enter after each other, playing the same music at the same tempo. The three violins begin playing long notes which gradually get faster and faster until the exact middle of the piece, when it then slows at the same tempo. A dignified composition that would be particularly suitable for the funeral service of a person who had led a long and full life.
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
This well-known, well-loved hymn was written by Rev. John Newton in 1773 after he miraculously survived a storm at sea. The recording by the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in 1972 spread its popularity and this piece of music was played at funerals and memorial services for members of the New York Police and Fire Departments following the attacks of September 11 2001. The history of this hymn makes it a popular choice for those who are proud of their Scottish origins.
Satie wrote three piano pieces called Gymnopédies – slow dances of classical Greek inspiration. The music’s soothing and tranquil qualities make it ideal as a means to pay tribute to the life of a loved one.