Hymns & Music

The Therapeutic Effects of Funeral Hymns and Funeral Music

Music is an integral aspect of most cultures and societies. It has the power to bring people together and helps us to express our emotions and feelings.  Music at a funeral can be calming, uplifting, rousing, moving, joyful and sorrowful. 

The hymns and music that we choose for the funeral of a loved one can be a perfect way to reflect their personality and to capture what they meant to us. However, finding the right music for a funeral, memorial, or celebration of life can be hard.

The following information can help you to navigate this musical landscape and to make thoughtful choices that genuinely honour the person’s life and memory.

Did the Person Who Has Died Make Their Wishes Known?

Is there a funeral plan, letter of funeral wishes, or information elsewhere that indicates what hymns and music the person who has died would like at their funeral? Or did they express their wishes verbally to anyone?

Most people, if they have a funeral music list, leave it as guidance and are happy for those closest to them to edit or add to their suggestions, so it may not be necessary to include all of their choices. A funeral is as much for the living as for the dead and it can bring great comfort to the bereaved to include songs that bring a sense of connection to the person who has died.

How Different Funeral Service Locations Impact Music Choices

The location and type of funeral will have a bearing on the choice of music. There may be specific guidelines and restrictions that need to be observed.

Understand the Influence of Location

Take into account the size of the funeral service location. A small chapel may suit softer melodies and sounds, whereas a larger place of worship can allow for something louder and stronger.

For outdoor spaces, such as cemeteries, there may be time constraints or noise limitations during graveside services.

Considerations of Faith, Culture or Religion

If the service is being held in a place of worship, the faith leader will need to approve your selection.  The same applies if the service is being taken by a member of the clergy in another location, such as a crematorium, although often there is more flexibility here.

For some faiths and religions, only traditional choices of music, singing or chanting are allowed, whereas for others, there is more flexibility.

If it is a civil ceremony with a celebrant leading the service, then almost anything is possible, so long as it is respectful and appropriate. Your celebrant will be able to help and guide you.

Types of Music for a Funeral Service

  • Hymns – a hymn is a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god. Certain hymns are more popular or are traditionally sung at funerals.
  • Classical Music – there are some beautiful classical compositions and gentle melodies that allow mourners to immerse themselves in contemplation.
  • Contemporary Music – modern pop songs, rap, country and western or other contemporary music can be a perfect way to personalise a service. Including the person’s favourite song, or one that brings back happy memories for friends and family, can be lovely.
  • Nature-inspired Music – songs that echo the beauty of nature find particular resonance in a reflective funeral. Instrumental tracks featuring birdsong, flowing water or gentle forest sounds symbolise the circle of life and can create a peaceful, reflective atmosphere.

Try to find a balance between somber songs that acknowledge the depth of grief, and lighter melodies that instill joy amidst the shroud of sorrow. This combination can allow moments of quiet reflection, whilst cherishing and celebrating the life the person lived.

The Pros and Cons of Live Singing and Pre-recorded Funeral Hymns and Music

You can have a mixture of both recorded and live music.  If you have a favourite version of a song by a particular artist, it can be great to play the original version. 

Or you can choose to have professional singers and musicians, a choir, or just family and friends. For more information about selecting live music please see Singers and Musicians, or to find professional performers, go to Singers and Musicians Providers.

Advantages of Live Singing at a Funeral Service:

  • Emotional Connection: live singing weaves a deeper emotional connection with attendees. Singing together is bonding and helps people to feel a part of the service.
  • Authenticity: the raw, genuine nature of live performances resonates with mourners, providing comfort and solace.
  • Flexibility: live singers can adapt their performance to the atmosphere and to the reactions of the audience.

Disadvantages of Live Singing at a Funeral Service:

  • Availability: finding skilled singers for the funeral service, sometimes at short notice, may prove challenging, especially for specific musical requirements.
  • Budget Constraints: engaging professional singers and musicians might incur additional costs.
  • Performance Quality: the quality of live singing varies based on individual ability.

If you decide not to have live singing or would like a mixture, pre-recorded versions of funeral hymns or music is an option.

Benefits of Pre-recorded Hymns and Music at a Funeral Service:

  • Accessibility: pre-recorded music offers a myriad of choices, drawing from various artists, genres and styles.
  • Cost-effectiveness: having pre-recorded music removes the need to hire additional performers.
  • Consistency: with pre-recorded hymns you maintain control over song quality and ensure a consistent experience throughout the funeral service.

Determine the Number of Hymns and Songs

The number of hymns and songs you select depends on the funeral service’s duration and structure. A shorter service may warrant fewer songs, whilst a more extended ceremony might need additional music.

An Order of Service will help you to work out the structure and requirements. You may need music whilst mourners are waiting for the service to begin and something for the arrival and departure of the coffin, if it is not already in place at the start of the service.

Generally there will be three or four hymns and/or songs during a service.

How whiteballoon Can Help

We have gathered together a carefully curated selection of music in our Inspiration section. Here you can listen to audio clips and read lyrics. Please visit HymnsClassical Music and Contemporary Music for ideas and inspiration.

If you would like to have songs or music performed or played by a professional singer or musician, please visit Singers & Musician Providers to connect to artists who perform throughout the UK.

Personalised Ideas Folder

Items and images from our Inspiration pages can be saved to a personalised Ideas Folder in our Planning Tools section. This can be printed out and, if you wish, shared with family, friends, your celebrant or funeral director.

All of the whiteballoon Planning Tools are free to use. Just Register to securely save information to your folder.

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