Music plays a powerful role in Catholic funeral services, bringing comfort, solace, and a sense of hope to grieving families. Whether it is the familiar melodies of traditional hymns or the uplifting sounds of more contemporary ones, music has the ability to touch the hearts and souls of everyone at the funeral.
In Catholic funeral Masses, the music chosen often reflects the themes of hope, eternal life, and the promise of resurrection. Hymns and songs such as Ave Maria, Amazing Grace and On Eagle’s Wings offer reassurance and remind mourners of the redeeming grace of God. These familiar words and music evoke a sense of tradition as you come together to celebrate the life of your loved one.
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for singing at our Mum’s funeral, your incredible voice really made the service extra special and really led the congregation when it was needed. What an amazing talent – I shall never be able to listen to Amazing Grace again without thinking of you. Thank you so very much.”
LP, mother’s funeral. St Anne’s Catholic Church, Brockenhurst
Choosing heartfelt music for a Catholic funeral
The choice of music in a Catholic funeral service is deeply personal to you, your family and also the wishes of your loved one. At Singers for Funerals, families often ask us to sing songs or hymns that had special significance to their loved one. We find that this level of family involvement creates a unique and more meaningful tribute. While it may seem like a daunting task, there are many beautiful and uplifting Catholic funeral songs to choose from that can help create a meaningful and memorable tribute to your loved one.
How to choose funeral songs that ‘work’ for you
When choosing hymns and songs, one important aspect to consider is the vocal and instrumental arrangement of the hymns and songs. You should ensure that they are:
- Suitable for the congregation to sing
- You have a funeral singer to lead the hymns and sing any solos you wish.
Here are some moving songs to consider:
Ave Maria Many families request this wonderful hymn to Mary, as it has special memories for them of family weddings and other events where it has previously been sung. Its lyrics and melody encapsulate a sense of supplication and comfort asking for intercession and protection of the Virgin Mary for the departed soul.
We sing 3 versions: by Bach/Gounod, Caccini and Schubert. All are wonderful, but I think the Bach/Gounod is particularly beautiful. We can guide you as to which version might suit your funeral Mass best.
Go Silent Friend Sung to the tune of ‘Londonderry Air’, this is a tender and reflective choice for a funeral mass. It invites mourners to honour the memory of the departed while acknowledging the inevitability of death. Its lyrics gently encourage letting go and finding solace in eternal rest, providing a heartfelt farewell and a poignant reminder of the journey toward peace.
Added bonus: For those who wanted ‘Danny Boy’ sung during the Mass, but were unable to have a non-religious song in the service; this fits the bill, as the tune is that of “Danny Boy’ but the words are all religious and very popular in the Catholic church. For these families we suggest this as a solo, as we have a lovely version which is very much in the style of ‘Danny Boy’.
I Watch the Sunrise A fitting choice for a funeral Mass with its themes of transition and hope in the face of loss. Through its verses, it captures the idea of journeying from life to eternal rest, offering solace and comfort to mourners as they remember and celebrate the life of the departed. This hymn is often sung by the congregation, however it really excels when sung by a soloist creating a soft and intimate atmosphere.
On Eagle’s Wings This is often chosen as an uplifting song by families. This hymn speaks of God’s protection and guidance, drawing inspiration from the imagery of an eagle soaring high above. Its soaring melody and comforting lyrics offer solace and assurance to those who are mourning.
However, this hymn can be quite difficult for members of the congregation to sing if they are unfamiliar with it. The verses all have a slightly different endings and it has a wide vocal range. Families often ask for this to be sung by a soloist as then the music truly shines, and gives those at the funeral time to connect with their wishes for loved ones.
If you’d like a soloist to sing at a forthcoming funeral, do call us to discuss your choices of music. We are always happy to help.
Classic hymns for Catholic funeral services
With such a wide variety of favourite hymns to choose from, here are some of our more popular heartfelt hymn requests at Singers for Funerals:
Amazing Grace Beloved hymn that speaks of God’s unending grace and mercy. The simple yet profound lyrics touch the hearts of those who hear it, reminding them of the hope that can be found in God’s love.
Abide With Me A deeply traditional and meaningful choice. It gives a sense of optimism by reminding us that even in the midst of loss, God’s presence and comfort remain steadfast. Its lyrics convey the assurance that, regardless of life’s transitions, God’s love and companionship will guide us towards eternal peace.
Be Not Afraid A favourite hymn for many, reassuring that God is with them, even in the darkest moments of their lives. Its uplifting message serves as a beacon of light for the future, reminding those grieving that they are not alone.
The Lord’s My Shepherd (Crimond) A vocal version of Psalm 23, this is often sung instead of being read. The hymn reflects on God’s guidance and care even in the ‘shadow of the valley of death’. Its verses reassure you that even through life’s darkest valleys, God’s presence remains a source of comfort, trust and hope.
Many families ask for Howard Goodall’s contemporary version. The arrangement’s modern melody and heartfelt lyrics provide a deeply spiritual element to a funeral service, fostering an atmosphere of reflection and trust in the midst of sorrow. For many it is a point of reference, as the song was used as the theme tune to the very popular “Vicar of Dibley” television series.
Latin songs for a formal farewell
Traditional Latin chants and songs can add a beautiful and poignant touch to a Catholic Mass, paying tribute to the departed in a timeless way.
Pie Jesu Translating as “Merciful Jesus” in Latin, this song is one of our most requested solos funerals. Its haunting melody and tender lyrics, combined serve as a heartfelt plea for mercy, prayerful reflection and eternal rest for the departed.
We sing 3 versions: by Gabriel Fauré, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and John Rutter. By far the most popular of these is the version by Lloyd-Webber, which can be sung as a solo or as a duet by our two lady singers.
Salve Regina Also known as the “Hail Holy Queen,” this is a very traditional Catholic hymn/chant. It seeks the intercession and protection of the Virgin Mary for the departed soul’s journey, conveying a sense of maternal care and trust in divine mercy. It also provides solace and assurance that the departed are held in the tender embrace of the Mother of God.
Nunc Dimittas With words drawn from the Canticle of Simeon in Luke’s Gospel, this works well in a Requiem Mass. It casts a hopeful tone by echoing Simeon’s serene acceptance of his own mortality when he meets the infant Jesus. The lyrics resonate with the idea of a peaceful departure, assuring all that the departed will find rest and fulfilment in the embrace of God’s eternal love.
Check your choices
It’s important to note that the use of any music in Catholic funeral services is subject to the guidelines and principles of the Catholic Church. The music should align with the teachings and traditions of the Church and should not detract from the sacred nature of the liturgy.
I always tell families to check with their priest about music choices, as he has the final say on all hymn and song choices, and will approve only those he feels are appropriate for his church. In general, that usually means only religious music.
For more details, see our blog on Music at Catholic funerals.
Looking for a soloist for a Catholic funeral service?
Contact us to discuss your ideas and music choices. We have sung at almost 500 funerals, and specialise in Catholic services, so feel free to call and ask our advice, and check our availability.