Funeral Music



Pop Music and Monty Python on the Musical Score at funerals

The era of somber traditional funerals may well be over!  It appears that pop tunes are now eclipsing hymns at British funerals. Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion and Robbie Williams are now upstaging the traditions of Abide With Me, Amazing Grace and Jerusalem.  The Telegraph reported that a survey of 30,000 funerals by Co-operative Funeralcare conducted last year, found that hymns were the most popular requests at only 35 percent of services, down from 41 percent in 2005. Contemporary songs accounted for 58 percent of requests, up from 55 percent, with classical pieces making up the remaining seven percent (from 4 percent).

Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ was the most popular piece requested overall, with Monty Python’s rendition of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ also rating in the top ten contemporary choices.  It certainly appears that public opinion is shifting the somber tradition of funeral music, and that people are now looking to add a little light-hearted humour to lighten the mood of a funeral service.

Another recent survey in the UK, commissioned by The Children’s Society, also found that nine out of ten people found death harder to talk about than sex.  This survey rated Monty Python’s tune as the number one choice for a funeral track.  Other popular choices included Sid Vicious’s cover of My Way, They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa by Napoleon and Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think by the Specials.

“funerals have changed a lot in the past few years - more people are planning ahead to make their funerals personal and reflective of themselves.” Stated Lorraine Groves from the Children’s Society.

Peoples’ choices in contemporary tunes are influenced by what may be popular at the time, but many of the traditional classic funeral tunes remain the same All Things Bright and Beautiful, The Lord Is My Shepherd, and Abide With Me are the three most popular hymns, while Elgar's Nimrod from Enigma Variations, Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem and Ave Maria by Schubert are the top three classical pieces.

We might not yet be quite at the point of conducting New Oleans jazz funerals, but these recent surveys indicate a shift towards to more contemporary approach to funeral services.

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