Our ability to sing a wide variety of songs at funeral services has led us to some unexpected gems and new favourites. Many of these started out as a one-off request for one family and have gone on to delight and comfort many others.
We've started to notice the trends in music played at funerals, with Adele exiting stage left to be replaced by Lilly Allen and others, but some classic pop versions last way beyond their moment in the charts.
We've been delving into the files and realised a milestone has passed. We've sung at over 200 funerals.
What's amazing is the breakdown of where and what type of funeral we've sung for. Here's the stats:
Being an organist can be a rather dull job at time, no doubt. You sit through funerals, often playing the same ten hymns we suspect, and wait, idle, as another 'here today, gone tomorrow' pop hit is played on the CD player.
Who exactly is a funeral for? This may seem an obvious question, but the answer isn't quite so straightforward. We believe a funeral service should celebrate a life well lived, offering the family and those who attend the chance to remember, to reflect as well as say goodbye. Therefore, the choice of music, readings and tributes should reflect their choices.
Whilst in the car today, I was musing on what a terrific job I have. I know funerals are not what many people like to think about, but I really see the value of the enjoyment I give, and that I get out of singing at them. Today is a good point in case.
One of our favourite funeral hymns is 'And did those feet in ancient times', otherwise known as 'Jerusalem'.
From our vantage point at the front of a church, our singers never cease to marvel at the skill, care and dignity of the unsung heroes at a funeral, the pallbearers.
The Co-op’s recent survey of funeral music shows ‘My Way’ is still in the top spot, having featured on every survey conducted by the funeral service group.
Almost half of people make playlists for their own funerals well before they die. This alone shows how much people’s attitude to funerals is changing.
The choice of hymns for a funeral service are very personal to each family. There are long discussions about who likes which hymns and what ones were particular favourites of their loved one. However after much discussion it gets sorted, phew! Job done. Actually, not quite.
This is a new favourite of ours, a great funeral poem set to wonderful music. We knew of the poem, but the musical setting only came to our notice last year.
When choosing hymns for a funeral service it's often difficult to know where to start, as there are so many hymns to choose from. We've sung at many Catholic funeral masses and funeral services, so here's some help for choosing funeral hymns.
Statistics do make interesting reading, whether it's the number of votes politicians receive, or the number of songs we've sung at funerals!
Often people ask us which is the most popular song we've sung for a funeral, and yes, there is one that is requested far more than most, Schubert's Ave Maria.
Where do you start when choosing hymns for a funeral service? There are so many hymns to choose from. Having sung at many Anglican funerals we've first hand experience of the various choices people have. Often it's a close run thing with the popularity of hymns as we all have our favourites.
Every year in May, Dying Matters promote a fantastic range of events and activities around the country. The aim is to get people talking about dying, death and bereavement and making plans for their end of life; known as Dying Matters Awareness Week.
Choosing funeral songs can be difficult, and even more so if you're choosing for a Roman Catholic Funeral.
We have sung at a number of Roman Catholic funerals, when there has been some confusion beforehand about what music may be sung during a requiem mass.
Many people wish to celebrate a loved one's life with music that is special to them. So families have been surprised by the restrictions on the type and content of the songs and hymns which are considered acceptable for a funeral mass in the Catholic church.
An issue that has come to light is if a funeral takes place during Lent, some priests have insisted there's no music at all in the church.
(This is what caused me to do the investigation and call the Catholic Church to get a definite answer).
There appears to be a plethora of new hymns arriving each year. Every church we sing in has another new 'favourite' that we at Singers for Funerals need to learn, and I am truly amazed at this fact.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Our singers were scurrying about like a mouse.
As, hats on their heads, and music held tight
They brave the cold darkness of Farnborough at night.
We do love to sing, so tonight, it's not pub
But a church lit with candles and glowing with love
We'll sing of good tidings and shepherds and kings
Then dash swiftly home to wrap up last things!
Our hope is quite simple, but very sincere
We wish you Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
Best wishes for the Yuletide season from soprano Toni, mezzo Kirsty and office assistant spaniel Truffle.
Here at Singers for Funerals, we love the trend towards personalised order of service booklets, complete with family pictures and poems. However, we have also noticed a problem with hymns words differing from what is printed in most hymns books, and sometimes complete rearrangements of verses, to the point where even the organist gets confused!
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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!