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Choosing your Music for Funerals and Memorials
Not sure how to navigate choosing music for a funeral or memorial? Celebrant Leslie Ridgeway has got you covered...
For your understanding, Funerals and Memorials can be virtually identical except that a Memorial is held in the absence of a coffin.
Choosing the music can be easy or it can be very challenging. If your loved one was right into their music and had favourite artists, then you have a very handy head start in making choices. Better still is when the deceased person had already chosen their own music.
Others lament over what to choose because they have no idea of what their loved one would have liked. This can lead to you choosing what you like or what you think would be appropriate. There is no right or wrong here. It is just about being easier or harder.
Picking up on what you think would be appropriate, some people choose very solemn or sad music. Again, this is okay, but, there are many other criteria to use in choosing your music.
A Funeral or Memorial Celebrant has the honourable task of creating a Ceremony that is unique to the deceased person’s life. Music choices can greatly enhance the uniqueness, thus further honouring that life.
I will give a few examples. You are probably aware that some football theme songs play out, mostly at the end of a funeral ceremony. If someone lives and breathes football, this is very fitting. If they were a truckie, a trucking song would be most fitting. For a theatre lover, it might be songs from Musicals, farming people might have bush ballads, and so forth.
I conducted a funeral where the deceased man had served in the Navy. You should have seen the smiles during the Photo Presentation when ‘In the Navy’ by the Village People started up. The mood of the room lifted to one of joy which really served a purpose as this was a celebration of the man’s life.
There is also quite the choice in the delivery of your music. Most commonly it is recorded, but it can be live music sung by a person, a duo, a band or a choir. There could be violins, guitars, or any other instrument. There may be a piano or organ, and you can always ask the attendees to sing. The thing to remember with Civil Ceremonies is that there are no rules. You are free to choose what you would like to do.
The chosen music can have such a strong impact on those in attendance, so choose well to truly reflect the person’s life, and better still, start planning your own choice of music. All you need to do is write it down.
If you would like assistance planning a funeral, please contact a funeral/memorial celebrant in your area
As a fully committed die-hard Liverpool FC supporter, I can attest to "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Gerry & The Pacemakers. This song is traditionally sung at all home games at Anfield in Liverpool which rouses the fans. But I have used this anthem for all types of celebrations; weddings, funerals, vow-renewals, baby-naming and most types of ceremonies. It inspires, saddens and brings joy all at once.
Great article. I'm still in the middle of completing my course so it's helpful to have information like this for me to consider when it comes to funeral and memorial ceremonies. Music is so powerful and emotional and completely agree that it's so important to get it right. Thanks for sharing
The most memorable music choices I had were for a gentleman who was very outgoing and who apparently started each day with the song "lord it's hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way" and of course that was the opening music to his funeral. For the visual reflection they played " Those were the days my friend" and I was able to get everyone to join in the chorus. There were both tears and smiles from all present as they reflected on the days they had all spent together. You are correct Graeme, Music does have power .
Music is such a big part of any Funeral, and I always put a great focus on the music being pertinent to the deceased.
Sometimes people think "Oh you can't have that at a Funeral!" with some choices, but of course you can, if it was a part of that person's character!
Consequently, I have had pipers, guitarists, pianists, violinists, and even bands help to make the event ideal.
For people who have no idea, and the deceased is elderly, I will often play Glenn Miller's 'Moonlight Serenade', as most of the attendees had probably danced to it at some stage. Not just a nice piece of music, for when I walk in and look back at all those people that can't help tapping their feet, I know that they are as comfortable and relaxed as they can possibly be.
Possibly though, the weirdest choice for a walkout was 'Purple People Eater'!
Getting people to sing is difficult, but magically powerful if you can pull it off, and the chosen music can be just such a trigger.
I recently did a Service for a young lady who had tragically passed before getting to see the newest incarnation of 'The Rocky Horror Show' that she had so been looking forward to, so at the end I got everyone to join in and dance 'The Time Warp'!