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How do you choose music for a funeral?

How do you choose music for a funeral?

Music has played an important part in human rituals for thousands of years, and none more so than funeral services.

In the recent past, the music most commonly played at a British funeral would be familiar hymns or traditional organ music. Music choices were limited to a well-established repertoire that included hymns like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’ or classical favourites like ‘Ave Maria’ or Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’.

Today, however, mourners are as likely to hear Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ as ‘All things Bright and Beautiful’. Research into the most requested funeral songs has shown Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ and even Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ are more popular than traditional choices like ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ and ‘Abide with Me’.

Freedom of choice is a welcome thing, but without long-established rules to follo w, how should we choose funeral music?

Is personal taste important when choosing funeral music?

Individual tastes rather than tradition are shaping more and more modern funerals. And, as the strict social conventions around funeral services relax, one of the greatest changes has been the choice of funeral music.

People are turning to favourite songs to bring a personal touch to the funerals of their loved ones or thinking ahead to what they want played at their own send off. Musical genres have become much less important than whether the music chosen will evoke memories of the deceased.

Popular music is becoming more commonplace at funerals according to Alison Crake, president of the National Association of Funeral Directors. She thinks this is because funerals are becoming “as much a celebration of life as a farewell and are becoming increasingly personalised."

High-profile celebrity funerals illustrate the range of music chosen for funer als.

There were more than 20 performances at the recent funeral of music legend Aretha Franklin. They ranged from Gladys Night singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ to Faith Hill performing ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ and Ariana Grande giving her rendition of ‘Natural Woman’.

Here in the UK, actress Lynda Bellingham's funeral was reported to be an "all-singing, all-dancing knees-up" and a sound system blasted the Sid Vicious version of ‘My way’ at Sex Pistol Manager Malcolm McLaren's send off.

Does it matter what type of music you choose for a funeral?

Every type of music is played at modern funerals, reflecting the varied tastes of the population at large. From rock and pop, to jazz and country, sporting anthems to TV themes, all have been heard at British funeral services.

If there have been no specific instructions left as to what music should be played, it may be better to choose conservatively. The mix of people attending a funeral can be incredibly varied and it may be better to be safe than sorry when choosing music for the service. While some may find the choice of David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ at a cremation humorous, others may find it in poor taste.

The best way to avoid any upset is to plan ahead, choosing the music for your own send off, or discussing your choices with your loved ones. Although it is not always easy to talk about death and dying, a light-hearted conversation prompted by hearing a favourite tune can be a good way to introduce the subject.

Generally the music that people choose for a funeral holds strong memories for them and their friends and family. However, any music that helps connect us to our emotions is popular at funerals, and not only sad songs.

As songwriter Wayne Hector explains, “At a funeral you want a certain amount of joy, a song about hope rather than a sad song. As much as you’re lamenting someone’s passing , you’re celebrating their life. Songs such as this talk to the aspects that connect all humans.”

Will the funeral venue be able to play my music?

A small number of funeral venues don’t allow recorded music to be played during services, but most funeral venues, places of worship and crematoria, will be able to provide a sound system for you to play the music you have chosen. To avoid any upset, it is important to check before the ceremony. If you need any help organising the playing of music during the service, your funeral director will be able to help.

The Telegraph has been working in partnership with Golden Charter since 2017 providing funeral plans for our customers. With one the largest network of funeral directors across the UK and a range of funeral plans to suit your needs, you can be sure your loved ones will receive the professional care and support they need during a difficult time.

Planning ahead for your funeral lets you organise mor e than just your choice of music. With the cost of funerals going up all the time, having a pre-paid funeral plan can help provide peace of mind to make a difficult situation that bit easier when the time comes.

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  • To request a free, no-obligation guide to The Telegraph funeral plans provided by Golden Charter, complete the form below.

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The above article was created for Telegraph Financial Solu tions, a member of The Telegraph Media Group. For more information on Telegraph Financial Solutions click here

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