Having been a funeral singer for more than 25 years, I have watched, or rather listened, as the music for memorial services has changed. Funeral dirges are a thing of the past, and while some traditional songs have stood the test of time, the standard hymns are heard less and less.
I have had some very interesting requests over the years, including “The Indian Love Call,” “The Hawaiian Wedding Song“ and “I Did It My Way,” just to name a few.
The strangest request was from a gentleman who was angry that his wife, Lucille, had died suddenly. Care to take a guess at the song? I was thankful that “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille” was vetoed by the adult children.
One of the most beautiful songs I have been privileged to sing was, “April Autumn,” written by a gentleman for his lady love. It must have sealed the deal for her, because they had been married for more than 40 years when he passed away.
In recent years we have been given such treasures as “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” and “I Can Only Imagine.”
I have been honored to collaborate on a number of funeral-appropriate songs. The most requested, “My Little Angel,” is used often to comfort families who have lost infants to miscarriage, stillbirth or other causes.
As a vocalist, I know there are many details that need to be considered when choosing music. Here are some things you might want to discuss with your funeral director or arranger.
Musical questions you should discuss when planning a service:
• Do you have a preferred vocalist and accompanist for the service?
• Do you have the complete names of your song selections?
• Do you prefer the original recorded version or a live vocal?
• Do you have printed or recorded copies of these songs?
• If there are multiple arrangements of the same song, which do you prefer?
• Are there specific verses you want included or left out?
• Are gender changes needed to make the words appropriate?
• Do you want to use the in-house musicians and/or do you need their help in finding the music you need?
These simple questions take only a few minutes and yet can make a huge difference in the musical outcome of a service.