Choosing music for a funeral is an opportunity to celebrate a life in a way that touches everyone's heart. A funeral singer or soloist can provide the extra dimension of beautiful singing, for any type of funeral service or memorial service.
Funeral Singers for Church Funerals
The standard church service includes several opportunities for singing, including one or two hymns, a sung psalm, a sung item during the commendation, and an entrance or exit song. If you wish particular songs as solos, you should hire a funeral singer to perform your chosen pieces. The singer would be accompanied either by the church's organist, or should bring their own recorded accompaniments. A good funeral singer will also lead the congregation in hymns, and will often join in with any church choir too, if requested. Generally, a funeral singer will perform up to two solos and a hymn during a service. Remember that any music choices for a funeral should be cleared with your minister or celebrant first.
Funeral Soloists for Civil Funerals and Cremations
Many crematoriums have excellent sound systems, allowing them to play almost any recorded music you choose, plus pre-recorded organ accompaniments for many popular hymns. They may also have a resident organist who will play for the service, and accompany your funeral singer if asked. Cremation services usually last 30 minutes, of which only 20 minutes is the actual service, so there is a limited time frame for music. Generally, a solo or two, or a solo and a hymn are sufficient, with instrumental or organ music for the entrance and exit.
Funeral Singers for Humanist Burials
For humanist funerals or burial, you can choose whatever music you wish; the only consideration is the location. A professional opera singer may sound superb in a church accompanied by an organ or full orchestral backing tracks, but outside, the sound may not carry so well.
Popular Hymns for Funerals
Choosing a hymn for a funeral is a fine balance of finding a hymn with suitable words, and a hymn tune that most of the congregation will know! If you are concerned, a funeral singer can help by leading the hymn singing, providing a firm clear voice even if the rest of the guests don't know the hymn, or simply don't feel up to singing themselves. Popular hymns include “Lord of all Hopefulness”, “The Day Thou Gavest”, “Love Divine, all Loves excelling” and “How Great Thou Art”.
Favourite Solos for Funeral Singers
A solo song can provide a moment of reflection within a service, and use religious texts and tunes most people will recognise. A top choice is the “Ave Maria” by Schubert, and many people love the psalm “The Lord is My Shepherd” by Howard Goodall, otherwise known as the theme to “The Vicar of Dibley”. (Due to a middle section that nobody ever hears on the programme credits, it's best to have this sung by a soloist!) Traditional funeral songs also include "The Old Rugged Cross", and "O Rest in the Lord".
Popular Songs for Funeral Singers
A funeral singer should ideally be a professional classical singer, capable of performing with little or no rehearsal, and filling a church or crematorium hall with beautiful music. Most funeral singers will have a selection of modern classics to offer, such as “Time to Say Goodbye”, “You Raise Me Up” and “You'll Never Walk Alone”. However, if you know that the deceased really loved Freddie Mercury or Dolly Parton, it's best to play recordings of the artists rather than ask the soloist to perform such songs, as there will never be another Freddie Mercury!
Funeral Singer Check List
Here's a quick summary of what you should ask your funeral singer:
1. What experience do they have?
You want a professional, trained singer with experience of not just funerals, but singing in various venues, so nothing phases them.
2. What music do they offer?
A limited selection of songs might indicate a limited singer - choose a funeral singer with a good choice of songs suitable for their voice, and don’t be afraid to ask for other suggestions.
3. Are they happy to sing with the resident organist?
Most professional singers will be happy to perform with any competent organist, and will liaise direct with the organist over rehearsal times, etc, so you don't have to.
4. Do they have their own recorded accompaniments?
When an organist is not available, a good funeral singer should have access to a professionally recorded backing track and a discreet sound system to play it through, if required.