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.
Looking back on what we've sung in the last few years, here are top 5 most popular Church of England hymns.
The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended
Written by: John Ellerton (1826-93) a Cheshire vicar.
Music tune: St Clement composed by Revd Clement Scholefield [1839-1904], who was a great friend of Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame), and some think he had a hand in the writing of the waltzing tune.
It has five verses (verses 3 or 4 can be cut). The phrases are well written and celebrate the triumphant hope that God’s kingdom stands and grows for ever. This hymn has often topped the charts in the BBC's Songs of Praise poll.
He who would valiant be (To be a pilgrim)
Written by: John Bunyon (1628–1688) and first appeared in Pilgrim's Progress in 1684; the words were modified in 1906 for The English Hymnal by Percy Dearmer. It is based on Hebrews 11:13
The tune is: Monks Gate: nothing to do with monks but it was a folk song heard at Monk's Gate Sussex by Ralph Vaughan Williams who adapted it for the hymn.
It has 3 verses, the sentiment being that pilgrims are bold, valiant, undaunted by trial and trouble, and their home undimmed by disappointment and earthly failure. A popular upbeat funeral hymn
Lord of all hopefulness
Written by: Joyce Torrens (1901-53), who wrote under the name of Jan Struther, famous for a newspaper column in which she presented herself in the character of Mrs Miniver, a briskly sensible and humorous middle-class woman whose spirit seemed to embody a certain sort of plucky Englishness.
The Hymn was written in 1929 on requested by from Westminster Abbey.
The tune: is an Irish melody Slane and suits the words beautifully.
It has 4 verses with a meaningful message, and the tune is typically Irish in its range and ending on three repeated notes. This hymn brings comfort without sadness when used at a funeral.
Immortal, invisible, God only wise
Written by: Walter Chalmers Smith, based on 1 Timothy 1:17;
Music: Welsh tune of St Denio.
This hymn is one of general praise and recognition of God as unchanging and as light. There are 4 verses and some choose to omit verse 3 if time is short.
The tune is easy to follow if you don't already know it, and sits well during the service.
Guide me o thou great redeemer (Cwm Rhondda)
Tune by: John Hughes(1873-1932),
Written by: William Williams in 1905 original lyrics in Welsh, then translated to English because of the large number of industrial workers who had migrated to Rhondda and spoke no welsh.
The tune is indelibly associated with Welsh Male Voice Choirs and Eisteddfods.'Cwm Rhondda' has been sung in the trenches and mines as well as at numberless rugby matches, was composed for a singing festival.
The hymn text refers to the journey of a Christian throughout their life on earth requiring the Redeemer's guidance and ending at the gates of Heaven (the verge of Jordan) and end of time (death of death and hell's destruction).
Have a listen to the hymns.
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