Singing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It may be you just don’t like to sing, or prefer to do so in the privacy of your own bathroom. That’s fine, until an occasion comes along where you feel you really should sing, like a wedding or a funeral.
Singing at funerals
Singing at a funeral can be tricky even for those who love to sing. The emotions all types music can evoke can quite literally stick in your throat and stop you singing. That’s only natural, and is an important element of expressing your feelings.
That’s one reason why families ask us to come and sing at funerals. We can lead the singing even if most of those attending don’t feel able to. We can celebrate a life with a favourite song sung live, and help memories and tears flow in almost equal proportions.
Hymns you know but others don’t
Another reason is that those attending a religious funeral either in church or a crematorium might not know the hymns you choose. Hymns do change, both in words and musical settings, and even those who knew most of the school hymnbook backwards as a child suddenly find themselves faced with a modern hymn they don’t know.
Add in those from another faith, or who don’t have a faith background, and the result could be a thundering silence where you and your family would like strong singing.
A strong voice to follow
That’s where we can help. As professional singers, we sing with clear, strong voices so people can sing if they want to or stay quiet if they prefer. We don’t use microphones, so people don’t feel intimidated to join in. We sing solo too, so you and your family can reflect with favourite music and memories, with the added personal touch of live singing rather than recorded music.
Certain communities we sing for don’t sing themselves at all. It’s not uncommon to have a church full of 200+ mourners at a traveller’s funeral, and not a single person sings the hymns. That’s fine by us, as we’ll sing with strength and clarity for hymns, sacred songs and family requested items alike.
Choir or soloist - or both?
We’re sometimes asked if we can provide a choir and our reply is - unless you specifically want a piece of four-part harmony choral music, you don’t need a choir for a funeral service. We’ll sing everything required, from hymns and sacred solos to classic song and (for most Catholic masses) the responses too.
Sadly, church choirs are in decline, and many of those who sing in them work during the week, when most funerals are held. If the choir is available, they may be short in numbers and therefore not produce a huge volume of sound. They may not know the hymns you’d like, and probably won’t be able to provide a strong, confident soloists either.
Tailor-made singing for your space
As trained opera singers, we’ve got volume built in! We’ve also got 25+ years of experience of tailoring our sound to the venue and the audience. That means:
Singing at graveside or a burial ground
This skill of customising our voice is particularly important when singing outside, where there is no reflective surface to ‘bounce’ our sound off. Here we use our technique to project the sound further (not just louder). The result is that when singing at the graveside, our voices can usually be heard right across the cemetery, yet without sounding overbearing to those right beside us. (As opera singers at big outdoor events, we’ve had individual microphones fail mid aria, and the audience scarcely noticed!)
All funerals contain various elements, only on e of which is the music. Often, funerals also need to be completed within a certain timeframe. So, it’s important that we help the families with accurate timings of how long songs take - and that includes hymns. However, if there is a church full of reluctant singers, for example, organists do tend to listen for their voices, and as a result, slow down. By the time they are at verse four of a hymn, they might be singing at half the tempo they started at.
With us leading the hymns, we ensure the music moves at a consistent tempo by leading with a strong voice both those attending and the organist can follow easily. We therefore prevent hymns dragging, and ensure that the funeral runs to time without ever feeling rushed or hurried.
Our experience also helps us be ready and waiting for the next element, so the service moves seamlessly from words to music without long breaks or pauses. Again, we don’t rush these moments, but it helps create a natural rhythm to the service that is both reassuring and subconsciously calming.
Yes, we take requests!
We have been asked to sing a whole variety of music at funerals from Irish airs and songs from musicals, to classic popular songs by Rod Stewart and Morecombe and Wise. If we can sing it, and can find a suitable backing track, we will. So do feel free to ask us for songs special to your family, and we’ll give you our honest opinion, as some iconic songs are best sung by the original artist (we are, and never will be, a Freddie Mercury ora Beyoncé!).
If you’d like to celebrate the life of a loved one with live singing at their funeral, call us, even if it’s just days away. We’re happy to help whenever we can.
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All our articles are written either by Toni or Kirsty. If you'd like to write a guest blog, just let us know!