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How to use classical music at funerals

Choosing classical music may not be the simple solution when deciding what  funeral music to select.

The range of music under the heading Classical is huge and the choice daunting.

The term ‘classical’ broadly describes music across the last 1,000 years, written for church and orchestral instruments in the Western secular and liturgical style.

It may be best to choose something written for a Quartet, an Ensemble (up to about 30 players) or a Chamber Orchestra unless, that is, you want your audience to have the full-on Wagnerian experience.

Time is an issue

It is best to avoid symphonies as their movements last too long so mourners will only be able to hear a few minutes.

This will not allow the theme and mood to be fully established before it is faded out. It is not a good idea to fade classical music before the end that the composer has created.

So, if classical music was important to the person whose life is being marked, ensure that there is enough time for it to be played at the funeral event.

This might mean booking a double slot at the chapel at the crem or cemetery. It will certainly mean the minister/officiant must manage the time allocated for the ceremony to include the whole of the piece chosen.

When it is decided, the music choices should go into the Order sheet.

Good for background music

For those where music has not been an important part of their life, light classical can be a good way to ‘fill up the gaps’ as people are arriving and leaving and to help everyone feel less self conscious by giving good quality background music.

If you do not know what to choose, see our orchestral and vocal funeral music lists. Farewell Music also has excellent choices. Most officiants and funeral directors can suggest suitable pieces.

One option is to choose a long piece and play it all the way through. That is, after everyone has sat down, to fade the music to background level and keep it there.

Naturally, this precludes hymns or other music being played and the piece must not have any musical ‘shocks’ where it suddenly increases in level or tempo.

Live music

Consider how brilliant, or possibly disastrous, live music at the funeral could be. Only choose high quality musicians, and these don’t come cheap...and nor should they. The right music played to the highest standard will make the funeral a much more memorable event.

Think about using the musicians at the reception following the funeral service/ceremony. There will be more time to play, and more people to appreciate, your choice of music. The mood will be less sombre and grieving.

If it is well organised, the reception will allow your family and friends to overcome the sadness of your death, or that of the loved one whose funeral you are organising, and leave in a better state of mind, having met family members and other important people in your life, remembering the person you were, and appreciating the music that was important to you.

Create and save your playlists

Start the process of selecting the music and organising the funeral that marks you as a unique individual now.

Create a playlist; write out your instructions for the funeral and for the reception. Consider a celebratory party and how you want this to be organised.

Save this information to your Lifebox so that you can amend and add to it. It will then be part of the instructions to be acted on by your executor(s) or whoever you choose to pass your digital Lifebox key onto when you die. (SA)

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