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 and is likely to include some of that person’s favourites.
It may be a mistake to play music to cheer people up. This is quite different from choosing music which, however funny or anarchic, expresses the spirit of the person who has died and the spirit of the occasion. Such a piece of music may well cheer people up!
It may also 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. If you want people to be able to listen to the music the dead person loved best, include a playlist in the order of service and they can do it at home – or share it on Spotify.
Music can be much more powerful and evocative than spoken words—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 now have the Wesley music system, which can download from the internet almost anything ever recorded. If you’ve forgotten the title but can hum a snatch of the tune down the phone to them, chances are they’ll recognise it. Any crematorium which does not have the Wesley system may insist on original, not burned, CDs. Make sure the correct version is played – some tunes have many versions and styles.
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.
Choose the right music and not too much of it: that’s the trick.