So is it really any surprise that Frank Sinatra’s My Way and Robbie Williams’ Angels rather than hymns are becoming the tunes people want to leave this world to? A recent survey of 30,000 funerals conducted by Co-operative Funeralcare has revealed that pop, rather than sacred tunes or hymns ,count for the majority of requests at funerals- 58% to 35%. My Way by Frank Sinatra was the most requested piece of music overall, followed by Wind Beneath My Wingsby Bette Midler and Time To Say Goodbyeby Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. You Raise Me Upby Westlife made its first appearance in the top 10, alongside Angels by Robbie Williams and Over The Rainbowby Eva Cassidy.Humour played a part in many funerals, with Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s Life of Brian among the most requested tunes. Funeral homes also reported a number of unusual requests, including the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast and the themes to everything from Only Fools and Horses and Top Gear to Benny Hill, Z Cars and Channel 4 Racing.Some songs are considered too outlandish for the occasion, however. One in every ten requests is rejected by the clergy conducting the ceremony on the grounds of inappropriateness, according to the survey by the UK’s largest funeral director.
Songs have the power to move us, inspire us and, most importantly, often remind us of key dates or experiences in our lives or , as in the case of some of the more unusual selections say something about the character of the departed. With fewer people attending regular church services, how long will it be before hymns slip below 10%? Thank God for the rousing experience of beer and hymns at Greenbelt, and the success of some towns running Big Sing style events where people are invited to select and join in community singing to their favourite hymns.
My father-in-law is an athesist, but has already told me he wants How Great Thous Artto be sung at his funeral, and some Christians I know want only secular music…it’s a funny old world. The most popular hymn remains the sung version of Psalm 23- The Lord is my Shepherd.