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Funeral music tastes are changing

The days when hymns were the only funeral songs have gone...a recent survey showed that over half the songs now played at funerals are secular.

In 2009, Co-operative Funeralcare published the results of a survey of 250 funeral directors who had carried out over 30,000 funerals across the UK in 2008.

There was a growing number of TV themes requested. Most popular are Songs of Praise, Only Fools and Horses, Z Cars, Benny Hill, Top Gear, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

With a nod to the great British eccentricity, the theme to Channel 4 Horse Racing was also requested on several occasions.  Sailing By, the tune played on BBC Radio 4 before the late night Shipping Forecast, and a lovely melody, is getting a few plays.

Tastes in musical choices for funerals haven’t changed much...but the growing number of requests for secular music match the lives and beliefs of an increasingly secular society more fittingly than hymns written when society was far more religious. 

The religious and secular can combine quite comfortably in what is now known as the modern British funeral.

There is a growing demand for civil ceremonies, humanist funerals and interfaith funerals at which secular music and readings are accepted to mark the end of a life.

To ensure that you have the music you want played at your funeral, or that of a loved one whose funeral you are organising, create a funeral music playlist and put in your Lifebox.

This will be opened after your death by your executor or next of kin. Your funeral wishlist and playlist will be accessed as priority documents and they will be able to carry out your instructions.  

The most popular contemporary funeral songs are:

  1. My Way: Frank Sinatra/Shirley Bassey/Elvis Presley;
  2. Wind Beneath My Wings: Bette Midler/Celine Dion;
  3. Time to Say Goodbye: Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli;
  4. Angels: Robbie Williams;
  5. Over the Rainbow: Eva Cassidy;
  6. You Raise Me Up: Westlife/Boyzone/Josh Grobin;
  7. My Heart Will Go On: Celine Dion;
  8. I Will Always Love You: Whitney Houston;
  9. You’ll Never Walk Alone: Gerry and the Pacemakers;
  10. Unforgettable: Nat King Cole.

The most popular classical music for funerals are:

  1. Nimrod from Enigma Variations, Elgar;
  2. Pie Jesu from Requiem, Faure;
  3. Ave Maria, Schubert;
  4. Nessun Dorma, Puccini;
  5. Canon in D, Pachelbel;
  6. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Bach;
  7. Air on a G String, Bach;
  8. Going Home from the New World Symphony, Dvorak;
  9. The Four Seasons, Vivaldi;
  10. Largo from Xerxes, Handel.

The top ten funeral hymns are:

  1. The Lord Is My Shepherd;
  2. Abide With Me;
  3. All Things Bright and Beautiful;
  4. Old Rugged Cross;
  5. Amazing Grace;
  6. How Great Thou Art;
  7. The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended;
  8. Jerusalem;
  9. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace;
  10. Morning has Broken.

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