Funeral Folk Music - Part 1

As funeral directors, music being played at a funeral is one tradition we’re very familiar with. There are many folk songs that are regularly heard at funerals. A few that come to mind are the classical “Ave Maria” published in 1853; the Christian Hymn “Amazing Grace” published in 1779; and the gospel tune (our favorite) “I’ll Fly Away,” published in 1932. (See video below to hear it.) There are other songs of course, but these are the ones we have heard played most often.

Sometimes we think that American funeral traditions are more about familiarity than individuality. One has heard a song before at a funeral, and thus thinks it appropriate to use when planning a funeral for his/her own loved one.

There are the occasional families that find specific songs where the lyrics fit the life story of the one who has died, or simply choose to play their loved one’s favorite music/bands. And while this approach is less traditional than any of the songs mentioned above, these ceremonies really evoke the emotions of the attendees like none of the other songs. We’ll never forget the one 12-year-old granddaughter who played “Comptine” by folk music revivalist, Yann Tiersen for her grandmother’s funeral. (If you haven’t heard it before, click on the video below.) Everyone was moved to tears.

Yann Tiersen - Comptine d'un autre ete (L'apres midi) from scorpinamagda on Vimeo.

We don’t think music will ever cease to be played at funerals, nor do we think traditional funeral songs are going away anytime soon, but we do think our traditions will evolve over time to incorporate more personalized musical choices into our ceremonies.