Top ten classical funeral songs

If you're planning a funeral, find out about our top ten classical pieces for funeral services.

While these pieces all come from the Christian tradition, there is no reason not to use them for a moment of beauty and reflection in a secular service too. You can hear our singers singing some of these pieces on our Listen page.

1. Ave Maria


A short, quiet and focused piece, usually for a solo female voice. Particularly popular for Catholic funeral Masses, but universally loved even for non-religious funerals. The lyrics are in either Latin or German, and honour the Virgin Mary - you might recognise the prayer "Hail Mary, full of grace". This can be performed a cappella, but is usually accompanied on organ.

2. Panis Angelicus


Can be a solo or choir piece, but we like it best as a male/female duet. The two overlapping voices are peaceful, harmonious and comforting, with moments of spine-tingling emotion. Sung in Latin, the lyrics mean 'Angelic Bread', and it's designed for Communion.

3. In Paradisum


This is from a Requiem, a group of pieces written especially for funerals. In Paradisum is designed for the end of the service and commends the person who has died to Heaven - the title means "Into Paradise". A hauntingly beautiful flowing piece for at least 6 voices, it builds gently with moving swells of emotion. When sung well, the high female voices sound like the angels that are called upon in the lyrics.

4. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth


From Handel's Messiah. A traditional piece, for a solo female voice. The piece affirms faith in Jesus' return, and is designed to showcase the beauty of the soprano singing voice. It's a virtuoso piece with surety and confidence, perfect for making an impact. It's commonly heard at royal occasions, and gives a real feeling of ceremony, tradition, and (despite its German composer), Britishness.

5. Ave Verum Corpus


A short, reflective piece for a minimum of four voices. Written six months before Mozart's death, this beautiful piece moves through major and minor sections, making it a perfect expression of the different emotions that you might be feeling at a time like this. Meaning "Hail, the true body", this is another piece written for Communion, and is truly one of our absolute favourites.

6. Ave Maria


Like Schubert's version of Ave Maria mentioned above, this piece is for a solo female voice. However its tune is completely different, and the lyrics are simply 'Ave Maria' repeated throughout, in beautiful rolling cadences. It has a more flowing, richer, and slightly mournful feel, and the tingling beauty of the high notes give it incredible poignancy. Another piece for a virtuoso soprano that really does justice to the emotion of the day.

7. Pie Jesu

Andrew Lloyd-Webber

You might be surprised to see Lloyd-Webber in this list, but as well as composing West End musicals he wrote a classical Requiem for his late father in 1985. Best known as a duet for two female voices, this piece soars with beauty while still feeling calm, steady, and respectful. The lyrics are from parts of the Mass, and ask for eternal rest.

8. Do Not Be Afraid


A relatively modern piece written for a choir. Based on words from Isaiah, the simple and heartbreaking message is clear from the title. If you're looking for comfort and solace from your music, this is the piece for you. The harmonies are spellbinding, and the lyrics (which are in English) feel like a big warming hug. Written for at least 8 voices and sung a cappella, this piece requires a conductor.

9. The Lord Is My Shepherd


Not to be confused with the Crimond setting of this song, which you may know as a church hymn. This version was made popular as the theme tune for The Vicar of Dibley. The words are from a Psalm, which is sometimes spoken in the funeral service, but can also be sung (as in this piece). It has a simple, positive, and comforting message, moving between lovely high solo passages and full-bodied choir moments.

10. Sanctus


Another piece from Fauré's Requiem, the Sanctus has its roots in the Greek orthodox tradition and celebrates the glory of God. Beginning softly, with haunting angelic echoes between the male and female voices, the piece builds towards a triumphant and rousing section by the male voices toward the end. This piece requires organ accompaniment and can be ornamented by a solo violin.

For more guidance, visit our Articles page to read our lists of popular modern funeral songs, hymns, and Musical Theatre songs.

Share this post