Music and Poetry

A good funeral poem

Poetry has meaning far beyond words. People love it. Poetry speaks to the emotions and the senses. It speaks of mystery and the indefinable. It’s not what a poem says that matters most, it’s how it makes people feel.

This is why poetry works well in a funeral ceremony. And it provides a useful antidote to all that prose which everyone else has been speaking.

If you can’t lay your hands on a good poem immediately, there are lots close by.

  • Type ‘funeral poem’ into your search engine and you’ll be spoiled for choice.
  • Buy a copy of Poems and Readings for Funerals edited by Julia Watson, published by Penguin.
  • Buy Seasons of Life: Prose and Poetry for Secular Ceremonies and Private Reflection, published by the Rationalist Press.
  • Buy The Complete Book of Funeral Planning, Readings and Music published by Foulsham.

Perhaps a member of your family or a close friend would like to write a special poem. Even if you don’t think it’s very good, it is likely to go down better than a ‘real’ one.

Choose some music

The music you choose should express how you and everyone else feel. It should, of course, have a strong connection to the person who has died.

It is a mistake to have too much music or to expect people to sit and listen to long pieces of music. Something at the beginning, something at the end and perhaps a piece in the middle, lasting 3 minutes at most, will probably be quite enough for a half-hour ceremony. Seven minutes of a rock anthem, be warned, will feel, to the audience, like the wrong sort of Eternity.

Music can be much more powerful and evocative than spoken word – and the words of a song far less meaningful than its tune and the way it is sung.

If you want to play recorded music, most crematoriums will insist on original, not burned, CDs. Many crematoriums now have the Wesley music system, which can download from the internet almost anything ever recorded.

Live music works well, of course, and there are professional musicians out there of all sorts to play for you. Remember, though: a grandchild playing a recorder squawkily is likely to be far more touching than a stranger playing a harp like an angel.

If you want the funeral to move from sadness to a more celebratory or a lighter mood, choose your entry and exit music accordingly. A piece in the middle is likely to be contemplative. 

Choose the right music and not too much of it: that’s the trick.

If it’s live music you want – and nothing can match the immediacy of it – try Alison Jiear of The Inspirational Voice here

If you live in the London area, we really like the London Funeral Singers, who sing a mix of popular, religious and classicalhere

You can hire a choir from — who else? — Hire My Choir, all of them classically trained – here

If you live in or close to North Wales, the Threnody Choir has an excellent repertoire of good funeral music. Contact Tim Clark here

 

MyLastSong.com has a very good selection here.

There is a good list of top trad Christian hymns (you can hear them, too) over at My Last Song here. And a list of top modern hymns at the same site here.