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Funerals say yes to milk floats but not combines

26 April 2013


Send-off with a smile: the comedian Benny Hill with companions, at the Thames Television annual garden party, in 1982

Send-off with a smile: the comedian Benny Hill with companions, at the Thames Television annual garden party, in 1982

MUSIC choices for funerals and weddings are becoming ever more eclectic, a survey by the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) has suggested.

Requests included the theme tunes from Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Benny Hill Show, and the children's cartoon series Captain Pugwash. In most instances, they were accepted by the officiating minister. Even Johnny Cash's 1963 hit "Ring of fire" was allowed for one person who was to be cremated.

Occasionally, however, church officials have drawn the line. Tunes that were turned down include "Combine Harvester" by the Wurzels; John Lennon's "Imagine", which was rejected for its "theological dissonance"; and music from the film Sister Act - a request described as "the most ridiculous in recent years".

More than 200 churches re-sponded to the RSCM questionnaire. About 80 per cent were in the UK, but some responses came from as far away as Australia. The majority were Anglican (80 per cent), but 12 other denominations contributed.

There was debate about the use of recorded music. Some refused point-blank, but many were relaxed about using new technology. The findings suggest that requests for pre-recorded music are still occasional rather than frequent, although 52 per cent of the respondents say that the regularity of these requests has increased in the past decade.

The author of the report, Stuart Robinson, a church organist, said that many churches have sought to cater for these requests by devising new services to use alongside traditional ones, rather than replacing them.

There were several comments about the singing at weddings and funerals, including observations that the choice of hymns was sometimes limited to those learned at school. Mr Robinson said: "One respondent says their organist tries to encourage wedding couples to use the choir to strengthen the singing. Another suggested a wider range of hymns, songs, and choral music through CDs, or links to online tracks."


Question of the week: Should relatives be given a free choice over music at a funeral?

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