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UK >

Funeral clergy: ‘You’ll do it my way’

by Simon Jones

IMAGINE no "Imagine": it's easy if you are a crematorium with a moratorium on "unsuitable" songs for funerals.

Alongside its most recent survey on popular funeral music, the largest funeral director in the UK, Co-operative Funeralcare, has revealed that one in four funeral parlours has had song requests turned down by clerics. Among them is John Lennon's song, with its lyrics "Imagine there's no heaven".

Other inappropriate songs include "Disco Inferno", by The Trammps (it contains the words "Burn baby burn"), and Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell". Neither is "Fat-Bottomed Girls", by Queen, considered fitting.

Huge numbers continue to ask for Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way". It has received the highest billing in each of the past seven surveys, and is requested at 15 per cent of all funerals. "Time To Say Goodbye", by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, is next on the list, followed by Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings". 

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Pop music is becoming more common. Hymns now constitute just 30 per cent of all funeral music, down from 41 per cent in 2009. Of these, "Abide With Me" is the most popular, followed by "The Lord Is My Shepherd", and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Only four per cent of choices are classical music: Elgar's "Nimrod" is the most requested, followed by Canon in D by Pachelbel, and Schubert's Ave Maria.

"Hymns were once the mainstay of a funeral service, but pop music plays such an important part in people's lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing," says Lorinda Robinson, head of marketing at Co-operative Funeralcare. "Song lyrics now provide the poignant words to remember a loved one's life, either to acknowledge how much they were loved and will be missed, or as a reminder of their favourite hobby, pastime, or humour." 

Some choices do go uncensored. Eric Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" featured at number 13 in the list of popular music, despite featuring in the Gospel parody Monty Python's Life of Brian. One coffin even disappeared behind the curtains to the clock music from TV's Countdown.

Equally surprising is the news that those who are mourning want live music. More than half of all funeral parlours receive requests for live performances, from pipers and choirs to steel bands and rock groups.

Top ten contemporary songs
1 "My Way" by Frank Sinatra
2 "Time to Say Goodbye" by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli
3 "Wind Beneath my Wings" by Bette Midler
4 "Over the Rainbow" by Eva Cassidy
5 "Angels" by Robbie Williams
6 "You Raise Me Up" by Westlife
7 "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Gerry and the Pacemakers
8 "We'll Meet Again", by Vera Lynn
9 "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion
10 "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole

Top ten funeral hymns
1 "Abide with me"
2 "The Lord is my shepherd"
3 "All things bright and beautiful"
4 "The old rugged cross"
5 "How great thou art"
6 "Amazing Grace"
7 "Jerusalem"
8 "Morning has broken"
9 "The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended"
10 "Make me a channel of your peace"

Top ten classical pieces
1 "Nimrod" by Elgar
2 Canon in D by Pachelbel
3 Ave Maria by Schubert
4 "Nessun dorma" by Puccini
5 Pie Jesu by Fauré
6 The Four Seasons by Vivaldi
7 Adagio by Albinoni/Bizet
8 "Air on the G string" by J. S. Bach
9 "Largo" by Handel
10 "Clair de Lune" by Debussy

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