Singing them on their way

Charles 9 Comments




Posted by Tim Clark

This is Threnody (above) all ready to sing into action at Colwyn Bay Crematorium. 

It’s our belief that the sound of unaccompanied natural voice singing, in three- or four-part harmony, can create a space for strong emotion; can console and comfort, can embody and say things we can’t say in prose or poetry alone. 

We sing in English and Welsh, with a scattering of Spanish, Gaelic, Maori, Xhosa, as the occasion demands. We sing a capella, though we are prepared to be organ-tolerant if necessary. We sing songs, laments, hymns, simple chant-like refrains. If we had a theme tune it might be “The Parting Glass,” but we are getting excited and a bit gospelly about learning “Lean On Me.” We cover North Wales, but we did go in for foreign travel once (Shrewsbury…)

 We have no religious affiliation, preference or prejudice – we’ve sung for atheists and agnostics, Catholics and for all I know or care, Rosicrucians. We’re interested in good funerals, not definitions. 

We are not a professional choir, i.e. we don’t do it “for the money.” We ask for some help with travel costs, that’s all. This is important; what we are committed to is enriching funeral ceremonies, not ourselves. We love singing, of course, or we wouldn’t do it, but we’re local people singing,  for – usually – local people. 

Why am I telling you all this? Because we grew out of Bangor Community Choir, and I want there to be Threnodies available across the land. Community choirs sometimes sing at funerals, of course (for friends, members) but it would be just great if they organised themselves into providing a local Threnody. Why not approach yours and give them a nudge? Get in touch via Charles at the Good Funeral Guide if you want to know more about how we work.


  1. Charles

    There is nothing more spine tingling than the sound of human voices singing unaccompanied in close harmony. It is the most beautiful of sounds.

    On the rare occasions I have been lucky enough to witness a ceremony which involved a choir of this nature, their contribution takes the ceremony to another level entirely. Oh I wish there were more choirs available and more people realised their value. You need a Threnody franchise Tim.

    Incidentally, do you charge and if so, guideline price?

  2. Charles

    Thank you, Quokkagirl. No charge for our services, and depending on where we are singing, maybe £60 for travel; that’s quite flexible, has been more, has been less. I believe professional choirs charge something like £300+. In my view, and perhaps I’m being a bit over-pious, they are not singing for the community, they are singing for themselves. Fair enough, but that’s not our way.

    On our Shrewsbury expedition, the good lady organised and paid for a minibus, and when the songsters climbed into it after the ceremony, she’d put a hamper full of sandwiches etc inside. They sang much of the way home. Once people cotton on to the idea of what we are doing, it really seems to matter to them.

  3. Charles

    I agree Quokkagirl – beautiful and uplifting.
    We have some good professional singing groups (who sing at funerals) round here but it’s an additional cost that most families can’t afford sadly.

  4. Charles

    Terrific stuff, thank you Tim. We’ve had some spine tingling atmospheres from choirs singing for one of their members; also some ‘e’ for effort occasions after too hurried a practice from a choir – but no matter, it’s the thought that counts.
    I’d love a Threnody’s, ready to rock.

    1. Charles

      Thank you James. I think we can indeed tingle spines with the right sort of song, when we’re given the chance to. We try to make sure we sing within our limits, so that we make a nice noise. I agree, it is the thought that counts, but only up to a point. An E for effort is kind, but it’s better to hit the spot!

  5. Charles

    I agree live singing at a funeral or memorial service is a very personal ,uplifting & spine tingling moment. Great to read this blogg and to see this great service for funerals & the kind comments.
    I have been offering this service to families in Hull & East Yorkshire Area since 2014 families love the personal service of a live singer or choir . The service we use in our area for funerals & memorials service is a young Professional Singer/Soloist Callum Mathers who only charges £100 per service at crematoriums , churches & burial cemetery chapels & he also sung free of charge for a family who did not have much funds.
    We have recieved amazing feedback from families which he as sung live !

    1. Charles

      Very pleased to read of your work Roger, great stuff, thanks for your comments.

      The Natural Voice movement is so well-established, and such choirs are now so numerous across the land, that perhaps we can hope for a serious national outbreak of funeral choirs!

      And of course what’s an added benefit is that once a small-to medium sized choir is established, it will be asked to do other sorts of event as well. Not all our songs are funereal, and “Threnody plus friends” were busy carol singing last Christmas; we also sang at a local food festival, a fundraiser in Bangor cathedral, etc.

      So whilst it’s not quite “also weddings and bar mitzvahs,” a choir that practices regularly and aims at a good standard and a wide enough repertoire will be valued locally. Nevertheless, our core work is and will remain, enriching funeral ceremonies and, we hope, helping people to grieve.

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