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Classical music at funerals

The range of classical music that can be considered for a funeral is large and the choice daunting.

Below these suitable pieces is some helpful advice on which to choose.

Suitable classical pieces 

The following are popular classical pieces played during a funeral.

Adagio in G minor: T Albinoni

Adagio for strings, Op.11:S Barber

Nimrod, from Enigma Variations: Edward Elgar

Dance of the Blessed Spirits: C W Gluck

Canon in D: J Pachelbel 

Adagio, from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue: J S Bach 

Prelude on Rhosymedre: Vaughan Williams

Pre-recorded or live?

The most popular, convenient and least expensive way of having classical music at the funeral is to select pre-recorded pieces which will be played at the crematorium, cemetery chapel or church.

Avoid symphonies as there will only be time to hear part of the favourite movement.

There are several memorable funeral requiems. These were written to be played in their entirety at funerals which lasted several hours ...so select suitable pieces which last a few minutes.

Other sacred choral music will also provide profound experiences. Listen to Brahms, Mendelsshon and Bach to understand the power their compositions have to stimulate the emotions.

Live classical funeral music can be more profound

Discuss your choices of classical music to the officiant/celebrant as he or she will have to plan the event to allow the music to be played.

Remember, there is only a limited amount of time at the crematorium - usually 30 minutes.

While recorded classical music is the most convenient and cheapest option, live music will be more profound.

Select pieces suitable for a solo organist, harpist, pianist or violinist, or a string Quartet.

If you feel it appropriate and you can afford it, you could hire an Ensemble or a Chamber Orchestra.

A nice touch is to ask musical family members or close friends to provide the funeral music, though they must be of high enough quality. Nothing is more likely to spoil the event than badly played music, no matter how enthusiastic the musicians.

Ensure enough time

Ensure there is enough time for the music to be played and appreciated.  This is likely to mean a double booking slot.

Another option is to organise a celebratory or farewell remembrance party - either for yourself or the person for whose funeral you are responsible, and plan for playing live or recorded classical music as a major part of the event.

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, raising it slightly for Quiet Reflection period and so on.

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

See also the My Last Song lists of orchestral and vocal funeral music, and classical pieces ideal for funeral music.

Plan it, save it 

If you want the playing of classical music to mark your funeral (or that of a loved one) as special, select the music and whether it will be recorded or live, in advance.

Talk to the musicians you want to play it, or the booking agency, find out the cost and availability.

Write down your musical choices and instructions and put these in your Lifebox. This is a secure digital area which only you can access. Your nominated second keyholder will have access on your death or when you give permission.

He or she will then retrieve your funeral wishes and carry these out. (SA)

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Paul Hensby wrote on 4 Jan 11 at 5:57pm
Paul Hensby

Thanks Paul. I hope to put up some information on classical music for funerals by Henry Purcell and George Handel in the next few days. They both wrote excellent classical funeral music.

Paul Brown wrote on 8 Dec 10 at 4:59pm
Paul Brown

Really moving classical funeral music on here, some excellent choices!

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