Funeral music — what would you choose?

Sign: which song or music would you like at your funeral?

Four minute read

Music plays an important part in almost every funeral. It can help you release emotion, relive memories or simply provide time and space to reflect.

Discussing the music you’d like at your funeral is also a great conversation starter if you want to talk about death with family or friends, but aren’t sure where to begin.

We asked the Poppy’s team for their top tips in choosing music for a funeral — as well as their own music choices.

Five things to think about when choosing funeral music

1. Memories.

What memories does this music evoke? Why is it significant to the person who has died or to those left behind? Maybe you went to a concert or performance together, sang along to it in the car, or it was a karaoke favourite.

2. Message.

If there are lyrics, do these convey a message or express a particular attitude to life which communicates something about the person who has died?

3. Mood.

How do you want people to feel when listening to this music? Are you looking for something uplifting or a piece that’s melancholy enough to enable people to express the sadness they are feeling?

4. Position.

Different pieces and types of music can be used at different points in the ceremony or you can play music throughout. Think about what you’d like to play when the coffin comes in, during a time of reflection, and as people leave.

5. Personalisation.

Many songs and pieces of music have different versions or are performed by different musicians. We’ll always check that we’re using the version you want. You can also decide whether you want to hear the whole of each track, or to fade in or out at a set point.

Poppy’s team choose their funeral music…

Natalie, Client Sales Manager, Sheen

“I’d choose ‘For A Dancer’ — the version sung by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister.

“I have often played this song on the way to a funeral, to help ground and focus me on what’s ahead. I love the lyrics: the sentiment of confusion and sadness around death, and the notion that the person who has died would rather be dancing."

Aaron, Mortuary and Logistics Manager

“The final piece of music at my natural burial will be ‘I’m going home’ from the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’, performed by Tim Curry. The words sum it all up for me.”

Rebecca, Chief Operating Officer

“When we were planning my brother-in-law’s funeral, my in-laws ruled out one piece as it was ‘too sad’; they were worried it might make people cry. I’m the opposite — I actively want to create space for people to feel sad and cry if they want to.

"So I’d have ‘Dido’s Lament’ by Purcell (sung by Elin Manahan Thomas), which includes the words “When I am laid in earth, may my wrongs create no trouble in your breast. Remember me, but forget my fate”.

"It’s a terribly tragic piece with lots of space for emotion but actually the message is positive – remember the good things."

Poppy, Founder and Chair

‘The Homeless Wanderer’ by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou. This piece of piano music makes me close my eyes and start to sway. It's got room for all the feelings. I love it so much.”

Neil, Mortuary and logistics team

“I have a few... To go into the chapel, it would be the original operatic version of ‘Spente le Stelle’ sung by Emma Shapplin, and at the end, it would be Paul Masterson’s full dance remix of the same song, featuring Emma Shapplin. This track makes me melt.

After the eulogy, I want ‘It's Over’ by Roy Orbison.

“Then for some time to reflect and remember the good times, I'm very torn between two dance trance remixes. One is of ‘Show Me Heaven’ which I produced in the 2000s and the other is by Paul Masterson for a track called ‘Time’, originally performed by Kylie.

“In both cases, when I had people back at my house after DJing out somewhere, everyone always loved both tracks and had silly little fights over them, claiming they were written and made for them personally!”

Jo, Head of Marketing

‘House of Bamboo’ by Andy Williams — it was the first song at my wedding and makes everyone, young and old, smile and dance!”

Amy, Funeral Director

“I change my mind all the time, but at the moment one piece of music would have to be Kylie Minogue's 'Dancing' — "When I go out, I want to go out dancing...”. It’s actually a commentary on how she wants to dance until the end!

"This is certainly fits the tone I'd like to set for my funeral — informal and light. It would be part of a much longer playlist that would play throughout in the background, with this at the very end to send everyone off to."

Clare, CEO

“For me, it’s ‘Common People’ by Pulp. I’m a massive Pulp fan and this was a huge song during my university years, I think it’s one of the wittiest and cleverest social commentaries going. I hope it’ll be played very loudly and everyone will get up and dance like they were 20 in a sweaty college bar again!

“I’d like to have my coffin come in to Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’. It’s an excellent tune — upbeat and lively, which I want. And there’s also a bit of an in-joke as it’s often a bridal entry anthem for traditional weddings. Everyone coming to my funeral would know that being that kind of bride is the last thing I would ever want to be…”

Read about how to choose hymns for a funeral and ten ways to use music at a funeral.

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