music to die for

I was mooching round Mothercare with my daughter, feeling all emotional – yes, yes….I’m to be Grandma again! We were just going all gooey over a sweet little two piece when the store music changed and I got a shot of happy hormone before I’d even realised that the song was John Legend’s ‘All of me’……the song that very same daughter danced her first dance to at her wedding.

How music evokes emotions in a way nothing else does!

When I was doing my funeral celebrant training I was confident that I had all the necessary skills ..... except maybe music knowledge. I know what I like but wasn’t sure I had a good enough range of songs from different eras with the right feelz for funerals. Well now 3 years and many funerals later I know this is not a concern. Of all the things that people aren’t sure about including at their loved one’s funeral they nearly always know the music they want!

At a funeral I led this week we played Abide with me and Chelsea football club’s ‘Blue is the colour’! And in a well-crafted funeral – it works!  Just as we tell the story of the dear person who has died, with all it’s ups and downs, it joys and its sorrows, so the music rises and falls through the service bringing resonance, harmony ….and dissonance sometimes!  

Music gives a soul to the universe,

wings to the mind,

flight to the imagination,

and life to everything.


As the minister at funerals my privilege is to craft a service with the family, which evokes the presence of the person who has died and enables them to say goodbye from this life to the person they loved. By inviting the presence of the spirit of the deceased, by celebrating all that they were in life with all their glorious gifts and their foibles, we may ease the passing from the physical realm to the heart felt memory of the family.

The structure of funeral rituals have developed over the millennia in different ways in different cultures and belief systems. Here in the West there is currently a strong pull away from a formulaic religious format to a service that more fully recognises the person who has died. For those who nevertheless have a sense of the spiritual a good minister will weave the stories of life with the hopes and fears of death into a safe space where we can experience the joy of life, the sadness of passing and the mystery of that which we know only at a deep soul level.

As was my experience in Mothercare, emotions are touched through the first few bars of a song way before our heads transcribe what we are hearing. Music evokes a primal memory, a link to the eternal hum of the universe and into the soul of the one who hears. An American actress Stella Adler said, ‘Life beats down and crushes the soul, and music reminds you that you have one.’

I’ve led funerals that have included the Muppets, Lady Gaga and Dvorak. There are a few songs that are requested more regularly than others, but not as often as the ‘7 tops songs for a funeral’ would have you believe! We’ve had grandchildren playing the cello, recordings of the person who’s died singing and opera singers drafted in for the occasion – there is always music.

So, have you thought about what will be playing at your funeral...

and why?

Do share, I would love to know – in the comments below…..