Lockdown changed the way funerals were held in the UK literally overnight. From major gathering of sometimes hundreds of people in a church, they became a distanced groups of just close family and friends, if at all. Even as the Church of England announces that churches have the choice to host funerals after Monday (15 June), they will still need to be safe and observe health guidance and social distancing.
Funerals have changed beyond recognition since lockdown began. From large gatherings to celebrate a life with music and words, they have shrunk to just 10 or so close family members, sitting apart and unable to console each other. Some families can’t even attend in person, instead watching via a web video link as they sit in isolation at home.
We’ve been singing at funerals for over a decade, and we’ve never seen anything like the current situation around COVID-19. We know the comfort and emotional release live singing brings to any funeral service, and we want to continue helping families by singing on throughout this current situation and beyond.
Around 90% of funerals we sing at include hymns, whether the funeral is held in a church or a crematorium. Hymns are a source of great comfort for many attending, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wish to sing themselves. Often, we can see a church full of mourners and there are about ten people actually singing the hymns.
Organising a Catholic funeral can be daunting for some, but when the funeral is during Lent there may be a few surprises regarding the music.
The choice can seem somewhat limited or at some churches non-existent. The ‘rules’ regarding music do vary from church to church, as each Parish Priest has the last say on what happens in ‘his’ church.
We are constantly inspired by the people we hear about in eulogies at funerals, but one day this week, we discovered hidden histories amongst our musical colleagues too!
At a recent funeral I came across this wonderful, evocative poem especially appropriate for a Catholic funeral Mass. This was the first time I'd heard this and it struck me as a wonderful celebration of how ordinary things brings us closer together.
Funeral hymns play a large part in many religious funeral services. They have become part of our culture and many seem almost second nature to us. You may wonder how you know the hymn even if you're not a church goer!
There's something particularly moving about singing at the graveside.
I can sing outside thanks to our discreet portable backing track system, so I have professional accompaniment wherever I go. I don't need much else: just a space for me to stand on (preferably), somewhere to rest the speaker, so the mourners can hear and see me. I even sing from under an umbrella if necessary.
Choosing music for a Humanist or Civil Funeral can be a daunting task. You can have almost any type of music you wish, and there are no legal restrictions.
When it comes to deciding what to include in the service for a small funeral, there really are no hard and fast rules. The last few funerals I've sung at have shown exactly that point.
Many families ask for a choir to sing at a funeral because that’s what everyone has, isn’t it?
Not necessarily. A solo funeral singer (or duo) can be a better option.
Why have singing at a funeral service?
Singing is a natural ‘fit’ for a funeral service. The sound of the human voice can be soothing and healing. It can bring comfort, joy and solace, and is especially effective as a fitting tribute to a departed loved one.
This song has surprised us by being a popular request for funerals. Not usual for opera.
Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep)
I never thought that a Handel aria would prove such a hit with people. I think it goes to prove if you have a great tune, then it doesn't matter when it was written it appeals to people.
We’ve totted up the numbers for 2018 and there were a few new entries into out chart list.
The composers or our chart toppers this year are separated by over 240 years. Goes to show if you get the tune right it will quickly become and remain a favourite for many and these men have that magic that makes a good tune!
At Singers for Funerals, we often sing for Catholic funerals, including both simple and full mass services. Indeed, soprano Toni is the soloist of choice for several Catholic churches in Hampshire, and in particular the Southampton/Portsmouth areas.
One of the skills you learn at music college as a student of singing is to suit your voice to the music, and that includes volume. Singing a song with piano is obviously different to singing an aria with orchestra, for example. However, it;'s only experience that teaches you the art of self-regulating and adjusting your voice to different spaces as well. And it's not always about the size of the space either.
Music at a funeral service is often one of the first things to be discussed, as music has a great effect on people’s emotions.
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.
There's something very special and particularly moving about singing at the graveside. It also seems to be a growing trend; we’ve sung at 5 gravesides this year alone, and with more enquiries in the pipeline too.
Without sounding too grand about it, singing at the final resting place for the person we’ve learned about during the funeral service feels like an honour. We’ve been with the family through the process of choosing funeral music, singing under an open sky (whatever the weather) feels like a natural end to our involvement.
Throughout the years we've been singing for funerals, no pattern for bookings has appeared. However, this year, one has emerged - bookings for Fridays and mostly the middle Friday of the month. We're not sure why this might be. Do more people:
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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!