Music at Funerals
There is nothing more powerful, than a piece of music, to trigger a memory. A happy night out, a wedding, the song you and your pals would dance to getting ready to go to a night out. Your ‘hoovering / cleaning’ song or a favourite song from a holiday. The list is endless. And each song can trigger a different memory, some happy, some sad and you can get caught up in the emotion of the memory all over again, as if it was happening there and then. Yes, music has that power.
I remember reading a Facebook post by one of my friends, who had recently lost a close friend. Out of all the music on her iPod, Billy Jo Spears – Blanket on the Ground had come on and clearly this sparked a memory for her, so strong, that she posted it on Facebook.
We’ve all got that ‘1’ song that folk associate with us. Now, depending on who you ask, it could be a different song. If you were to ask some of my pals, they’d say that they can’t listen to Vengaboys (blush) or the Cult – She sells sanctuary, without thinking of me! My girls would probably choose a different song, and I always remember one of my eldest daughter’s pals saying that every time she heard the Riverboat song, memories of being out in the car with me and my daughter came on – apparently I would play it and sing as loud as possible! She even renamed it Karen’s Car Song.
I can’t hear the opening bars of the hymn Abide With Me without thinking of my grandma (who died when I was 14) and getting shivers. Anything by Perry Como makes me smile (sometimes cry) when I think about my dad. Mary Mary’s Shackles is definitely one of my pal’s songs – I can’t hear that without laughing and thinking of her. Or there’s songs that I’d play on repeat during really emotional times in my life. Music can help you through the best and worst of times.
So what’s your song? Conducting funerals, I hear a wide and varied range of music and it’s not always the most obvious choices that you would imagine. Disturbed – Sound of Silence was a new one for me, and would you believe, it was at the funeral of a 69-year-old woman. I’d never heard that version before and WOW it was powerful. I’ve had Garth Brooks at a youngster’s funeral and also acoustic versions of songs and everything in between, from 1950’s to 2018, Scottish, Classical and Opera.
I had the honour and privilege to compose and conduct 3 funerals this week. If I was to tell you that the average age of the deceased was 55, you’d think jeepers, that’s young. If I tell you that 2 out of the 3 were even younger, it kind of proves my point that death has no preference and you’re never too young to think about your own service.
One of the services I conducted was for a 32-year-old. When I went to meet the family, we were discussing music and her sister mentioned a song I’d never heard of, hadn’t heard of the artist either to be honest. She asked if it was ‘ok’ to play it. Why wouldn’t it be? She said because it was a humanist service and the song mentioned heaven and angels. She then went on to say that when her mum had passed in 2012, they had wanted a particular song played, and the Humanist conducting the service had refused to ‘allow’ it for similar reasons. This actually upset me a wee bit, to think that someone, who is a total stranger (in most cases) was able to dictate to the family what they could and couldn’t play. As a Humanist, one of my fundamental beliefs is to live and let live. I won’t force my beliefs on you, and as long as you don’t want me to say a prayer at your service, or lead the singing in a hymn, then everything else is up to you. The choice of music is YOURS and yours alone. I would never interfere. Ok, I may suggest that you consider changing the playing order – for example if you’ve a really happy bouncy tune during reflection and then a sad one for exit, then I may suggest it would be better to play them the other way around. But that’s as far as my input would go, unless you asked me to suggest some songs.
Anyway, the song the family had picked, but weren’t sure if it would be ‘allowed’ was Dancing in the Sky by Dani & Lizzie. Here’s the link to it on You Tube
And I can honestly say it is a truly emotional and beautiful song – both lyrics and tune. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the reflection piece and even I got Goosebumps listening to it.
So what’s your song then? Would your family play the same tunes for you as you’d pick yourself? Food for thought………..