Funeral Music

Planning Music for a Funeral Service

 While a very small part of the overall cost of a funeral, music can play a big part in the mood and overall effect of the day. The following is designed to help you plan the music at the Church Funeral Service. This is a very solemn occasion and the ceremony is steeped in tradition, and it is sought to give a fitting tribute to the dear departed. The music suggestions below reflect the solemnity and dignity of the occasion.

Music at a Funeral happens in the following places depending on the denomination of the church in which the service is to be held. Beneath are some suggestions to help you begin to think about your music choices for this important ceremony.

Notes:

  • Those marked * are perhaps the most popular choices.
  • Most will be available for you to hear various versions on YouTube. Remember that what you hear on YouTube may differ in detail from what you hear on the day when played by a traditional and dignified pipe organ.
  • Email Brett McKern to ask him to play the organ at the funeral.
  • Sometimes other musicians are invited to perform at a funeral service as well as the organ. These can include a vocal soloist, a choir or a piper in addition to the organ music. Feel free to ask Brett McKern for recommendations of such musicians.
  • Specially composed music: Sometimes families like to have a piece of music that was specially composed for the funeral in honour of the deceased. Sometimes very famous pieces of music have come about in this way. Brett McKern is an award-winning composer of church music. See his page on composition for more details.

Catholic Church:

i.            Music as mourners arrive – See number 1 below
ii.            Processional (music or hymn) – See numbers 2 & 3 below
iii.            Responsorial Psalm (may be said)See number 4 below
iv.            Gospel Alleluia (may be said)See number 5 below
v.            Recessional (music or hymn)See numbers 3 & 4 below

If a Requiem Mass, you may also need:

vi.            Offertory (music or hymn) organ may improvise or see number 3 below
vii.            Music during the Communion (hymn, soloist, choir or organ music) – see 2+8
viii.            Mass setting (may be said)See number 6 below
ix.            Our Father (may be said)See number 7 below

Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian and some other churches:

i.            Music as mourners arrive – See number 1 below
ii.            Hymns – See number 2 below
iii.            Music for reflection – optional; see number 3 below

 

1. As mourners arrive:

Usually the organist will select music from their repertoire that is suitable at this point, unless you have any special requests. If so, please discuss that with the organist.

 

2. Hymns:

You don’t have to have any hymns at a funeral service or may have one or several. Think about who will be there, would they sing, and are they regular church goers who would know any hymns. It can be embarrassing if nobody sings! You can also considering hiring a soloist who may help lead the hymns, or a choir to sing them.

Catholic Church:

Processional:

  1. Holy God, we praise your name (Tune: Grosser Gott) *
  2. Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (Tune: Slane)
  3. O God, our help in ages past (Tune: St Anne)
  4. The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want (Tune: Crimond) *

Offertory:

  1. Alleluia Sing to Jesus (Tune: Hyfrydol)
  2. Receive, O Father, God of Might (Tune: Tallis’ Canon)

Communion:

  1. Soul of my Saviour (Tune: Anima Christi) *
  2. O Lord, who at thy Eucharist didst pray (Tune: Song 1)

Recessional:

  1. Hail Queen of Heaven (Tune: Stella)
  2. The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended (Tune: St Clement)

Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian and some other churches:

  1. The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want (Tune: Crimond) *
  2. Abide with me (Tune: Eventide) *
  3. Amazing Grace (Tune: Amazing grace)
  4. And did those feet in ancient time (Tune: Jerusalem)
  5. Thine be the glory (Tune: Maccabeus)
  6. O God, our help in ages past (Tune: St Anne)
  7. Nearer, my God, to thee (Tune: Excelsior)

3a. Organ Music for reflection:

  1. J.S. Bach Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring *
  2. J.S. Bach Chorale Prelude on Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 *
  3. J.S. Bach Arioso *
  4. J.S. Bach Chorale Prelude on Erbarm’ dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV 721
  5. J.S. Bach Sonatina from Cantata 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (‘God’s Time is best’)
  6. J.S. Bach Adagio from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564
  7. J.S. Bach Bist du bei mir
  8. J.S. Bach Prelude in C Major
  9. Elgar Nimrod from Variations on an original theme ‘Enigma’, Op. 36 *
  10. Boëllmann Prière à Notre Dame from Suite Gothique
  11. Fauré Pie Jesu from Requiem
  12. Walford Davies Solemn Melody
  13. Handel I know that my Redeemer liveth from Messiah
  14. Handel Minuet from Berenice
  15. Handel Ombra mai fù (Largo) from Xerxes
  16. Parry Chorale Prelude on Eventide
  17. Parry Elegy for April 7, 1913
  18. Schubert Ave Maria
  19. Satie Gymnopédie No.1
  20. Sumsion Elegy
  21. McKern Meditation on ‘In Paradisum’

3b. Suggestions for soloists to sing:   

Soloists may sing during the service, while the casket is carried from the church, or as guests arrive. Discuss this with them. Note that their repertoire may vary greatly depending on the singer’s voice type and the repertoire in which they specialise.

  1. Schubert Ave Maria *
  2. J.S. Bach Jesu, joy of man’s desiring *
  3. Handel I know that my Redeemer liveth from Messiah *
  4. Bach/Gounod Ave Maria
  5. Handel How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace from Messiah
  6. J.S. Bach Bist du bei mir
  7. Franck Panis Angelicus
  8. Fauré Pie Jesu from Requiem
  9. Rutter Gaelic Blessing
  10. Walford Davies God be in my head
  11. Gregorian chant In Paradisum

3c. Suggestions for choirs to sing: 

Choirs may sing during the service, during Communion, as the casket is carried from the church, or as mourners arrive. Discuss this with the choir’s director. Note that their repertoire may vary greatly depending on the choral voices available and the repertoire in which they specialise.

  1. J.S. Bach Jesu, joy of man’s desiring *
  2. Rutter The Lord Bless you and keep you
  3. Rutter Gaelic Blessing
  4. Rutter God be in my head
  5. Walford Davies God be in my head
  6. Ireland Greater love hath no man
  7. Crotch Comfort, O Lord, the soul of thy servant
  8. Greene Lord, let me know mine end
  9. Byrd Teach me, O Lord
  10. Handel Lord, I trust thee
  11. Howells Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks
  12. Russian Kontakion of the Dead
  13. J.M. Bach I know that my Redeemer liveth
  14. Purcell Hear my Prayer
  15. Parry My soul, there is a country
  16. S.S. Wesley Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace

4. Psalms at a Catholic Funeral:       

Psalms in the Catholic tradition are responsorial and are led by a cantor with a congregational response. Gelineau Psalms are common, as are some other settings in the Catholic Worship Book and other sources. Ask your priest what the Psalm of the day will be and the musicians may help you find a musical setting. The Psalm is often also said.

5. Gospel Acclamation at a Catholic Funeral:   

Like a Catholic responsorial Psalm, the Gospel Alleluia is led by a cantor. There are many musical settings and that used will depend on local custom and what is known to your musicians and congregation. In Lent alleluias are not sung, but other texts such as ‘Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!’. These vary each week in Lent, so check the text with your priest. Musical settings are available for a cantor to lead. The Gospel Acclamation is also sometimes said.

6. Mass setting at a Catholic Funeral:

The tradition is that of Gregorian chant, and A Chant Mass for the Assembly is commonly used. Another Mass which is well known is the Mass Shalom by Colin Smith (rev. Paul Mason). The parts of the Mass sung at a Funeral include the Sanctus et Benedictus, Memorial Acclamation, and Agnus Dei.

 

7. The Our Father at a Catholic Funeral:    

If sung, the Our Father (the Lord’s Prayer) is almost always sung to the chant setting.

8. Music during Communion: 

If a soloist is singing, music such as the below are particularly appropriate:

  1. Franck Panis Angelicus
  2. Mozart Ave Verum corpus

If a choir is singing, music such as the below are particularly appropriate:

  1. Franck Panis Angelicus
  2. Mozart Ave Verum corpus
  3. Byrd Ave Verum corpus
  4. Elgar Ave Verum corpus
  5. Goss O Saviour of the World
  6. Vaughan Williams O Taste and See
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