What music should I have for a funeral?

The best hymns, classical, pop and folk songs for funerals, and how to choose between them.

Hymns

Most funerals will include a few hymns that the congregation can sing together. Amazing Grace remains our most-requested hymn for funerals, followed closely by the classic school hymn The Lord’s My Shepherd. The patriotic Jerusalem and I Vow To Thee My Country work well for non-religious or British military funerals, and Be Thou My Vision is particularly popular in the Irish community. 

For those looking to raise the roof there’s the thundering How Great Thou Art, Lord of All Hopefulness, or even the nostalgic All Things Bright and Beautiful. For a gentle, quieter feel many people opt for Make Me A Channel of Your Peace or I Watch The Sunrise. I Watch The Sunrise, Be Not Afraid, and Here I Am Lord remain popular hymns for Catholic funeral masses. 

Classical

While hymns are a lovely way to bring a congregation together in song, having a professional choir perform a classical piece creates a heightened moment of reflection and beauty. 

Schubert's Ave Maria really is the number one top-hitter for funeral music. It's a classical piece with a stunning tune, and the best singers will find dazzling moments of delicacy in the top notes. We think it's particularly effective sung as the coffin is brought into the venue, or as a thoughtful and focused piece during Communion.

We get more requests for Schubert's Ave Maria than for any other song. But did you know that there are several other versions of Ave Maria that are just as beautiful? Caccini's Ave Maria is written in a minor key, with a swelling mournful feel, and in Gounod's Ave Maria the composer set a new melody over a popular Bach tune that you might recognise. 

Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus is another very popular piece for funerals, with a gentle melody and some beautifully tender cadences. It's a versatile piece, so you can choose to have it sung by a male or female soloist, as a duet (our favourite), or by a full choir. The title means “Angelic Bread”, so it works well for Holy Communion. 

Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus is another very popular, beautiful and versatile choice. It’s relatively short, and often chosen as a Communion piece (the title means “Hail the true body”). 

Modern classical composer John Rutter has several popular pieces to offer, including The Lord Bless You And Keep You, The Gaelic Blessing, and For The Beauty of the Earth. These pieces are written for choirs and have a warm, comforting feel. 

But our favourite? Do Not Be Afraid by Philip Stopford. Visit our Listen page to hear our singers performing it, and you'll see why.

What else?

If classical music and hymns aren’t your cup of tea, consider a traditional folk song like The Lady of Knock, She Walked Through The Fair, or Danny Boy. There’s lots to be found in modern folk too - take Order and Chaos by Lady Maisery, the Northumbrian folk music of The Unthanks, or the ever-popular Laura Marling (her duet The River, with Johnny Flynn, is our favourite). 

Or you could look to the world of Musical Theatre, where you’ll find funeral staples such as You’ll Never Walk Alone, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Bring Him Home. Visit our dedicated Musical Theatre blog post for more funeral songs from the musicals. 

When it comes to pop music, you’ll have already thought of classics like Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, Luther Vandross’ Dance With My Father, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. On our list of Modern pop songs for funerals we’ve included favourites from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water right through to Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket Flowers and Rihanna's Lift Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. 

When you’re planning funeral music, the most important thing is to consider how you want the music to make you feel. Forget what you think is expected, and choose whatever music will help you find comfort on the day. 

The right music gets to places that words can’t reach. And hearing your songs sung in person, especially for you and your loved one, helps you reconnect with the lyrics, hear them afresh. You'll find solace, an outlet for your grief, and even a moment of joy. 

Most people don’t want to look back and remember the coffin, the flowers, or the hearse. Book a singer or choir for your loved one, and create something truly special for you and your congregation to remember them by. 

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Need more inspiration?

Check out our articles to find more funeral music inspiration