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Music has the capacity to move you, stir you and to lift your spirits. Certain songs make you want to dance and others command our tears to flow. At the funeral of a loved one, we are moved by songs that elicit good memories, stir up a variety of emotions and leave us with feelings of hope. Music plays a major role on such a sad occasion. It is important that it renders messages of comfort, joy and love.
The songs that are played at funerals are specially chosen by the family. They are sometimes the dear departed’s favorite songs. African-Americans often select among the Spiritual and Gospel standards such as “I’ll Fly Away”, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, “The Last Mile of the Way,” “Peace In The Valley,” “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, “He Touched Me,” and my Grandma Effie’s favorite, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” These songs all convey the message of hope in Christ; and this hope is your best comforter in times of grief.
Our accomplished musician, Harold Bowen, has played and sung for funerals for over 35 years. He too feels that it is important to convey a comforting message through the music. Harold says “most people select traditional songs, the most popular being “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Lord.” He does however, recognize a trend towards more contemporary selections and secular songs.
Yvonne Fernandez can remember accompanying her mother to many a funeral. Her mother was the church musician and was called upon often to play. One of the songs most frequently sung was “God Will Take Care of You.” Yvonne is also a musician and says that she likes funeral songs that “deliver the message of Salvation.” She loves the song “Tomorrow” by the Winans, because it is “thought-provoking and shows you the way.”
Sharon Barry has lost four loved ones in the last two years. In times like these, she says she needs to hear music that “ministers to me; music that can get me through the grief; something that gives me comfort, hope, wisdom and direction.” She loves “Going Up Yonder”, “I Won’t Complain” and Yolanda Adams songs, “Going Through The Storm” and “The Battle is Not Yours.”
Hallie Humdy, a long-time Pasadena resident, prefers “upbeat and uplifting” funeral songs such as “Blessed Assurance”, “How Great Thou Art” and “I’m Free.” She feels that music selected for funeral services should “make the family feel good and not make them sadder.” Uplifting songs are consistent with a funeral service being a “celebration” of one’s life and confirm our faith that our loved one is “in a better place.”
Secular songs are sometimes requested for funeral services. Songs like “My Way”, “My Buddy” and more recently, Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father Again.” These songs may be chosen because they are the departed’s favorite songs or because they reflect one’s personality or experience. Secular songs generally have to be approved by the Minister/Officiant, and are oftentimes disallowed or discouraged.
As a part of my pre-need planning arrangements I have listed the songs I want played at my funeral. They are “God Has Smiled On Me”, “Come Ye Disconsolate” and “In The Garden.” I selected these songs in hopes that they would comfort my dear family and friends at that time. What songs would you choose?