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Music and hymns play an integral role in most funerals. Funeral songs can be used to provide family and loved one's peace and comfort, to invoke happy memories of the deceased, or as a tribute to the deceased’s Christian faith. 

Funeral songs and hymns don’t have to be strictly used in a religious ceremony. If a certain song or hymn speaks to you, then you may wish to include it in your non-religious funeral ceremony. 

Music has a special way of speaking to the soul. Including funeral songs and hymns in a funeral is an intimate and timeless way of honouring your loved one and touching those who are there to honour them.

Here are 10 of the best funeral songs and hymns to consider including at a funeral service, memorial or celebration of life party. 

Funeral songs

  1. “Hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen

When Leonard Cohen first wrote “Hallelujah”, it wasn’t an immediate success. The song's popularity only began to grow after the likes of artists such as Jeff Buckley covered it, inspiring over 300 versions of the song ever since. 

“Hallelujah” references many biblical stories and characters including Samson and Delilah, and King David. In Hebrew, “Hallelujah” means to rejoice in praising God. However, Cohen’s musical rendition mostly sings to the bittersweetness of love and loss.

It is a hauntingly beautiful song that is, understandably, a popular choice for funerals and memorial services. 

  1. “Angels” – Robbie Williams

“Angels” has continuously been revealed as one of the most requested songs to play at a funeral. In the 1997 ballad, Robbie Williams sings about his guardian angel who offers him both affection and protection. 

The song is a beautiful contemporary funeral song that offers comfort in times of hardship or sorrow. Giving funeral goers the reassurance that when they’re feeling weak they can look above and be guarded and blessed with love from their angel above. 

  1. “Ave Maria” – Sarah Brightman

With the Latin translation meaning, “Hail Mary”, the song “Ave Maria” remains a  popular funeral song choice, with many versions and renditions.

Written in 1825 by Franz Schubert, the song is widely used in Catholic ceremonies and speaks of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her guidance and protection. 

 

  1. “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Modern funerals, or, ‘Celebration of Life’ funerals step away from the more sombre tone of traditional funerals with the emphasis of celebrating one’s life and the memories shared.

One of the best songs to celebrate a person’s life include “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” – made popular by the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’. The song is essentially a love song dedication that can also be interpreted as an uplifting ode to one’s life.

Funeral hymns

  1. Be Not Afraid

A modern funeral hymn speaking of finding strength in God, “Be Not Afraid” is a perfect choice for providing comfort in times of sorrow.

This Catholic hymn has been included in funerals and processions of nearly every Christian domination and is most valued for the words, ‘Be not afraid. I go before you always.’ – giving reassurance that the Lord Saviour is with us through this tough time.

  1. Abide With Me

This funeral hymn is traditionally sung on ANZAC Day and many military funerals across the world. The lyrics of “Abide With Me” draw on passages from Luke and Corinthians. 

It is a prayer for God to stay with us through life and death and resonates deeply with those who feel the need for God, not just death, but all of life’s transitions and circumstances. 

  1. Lead Kindly Light

This uplifting and comforting hymn tells of finding peace in the afterlife. “Lead Kindly Light” has become a particularly popular funeral hymn as it asks for God to be with us throughout the day.

The traditional 19th century hymn is actually based on a poem by John Henry Newman after becoming sick as a young priest in Italy. 

  1. In The Sweet By and By

Written by Sanford Fillmore Bennet in 1968, “In the Sweet By and By” is a faith-driven hymn providing comfort, peace and hope for the listener.

The hymn uses imagery to draw on a brighter, happier land where loved ones are at peace with the Lord. There’s an emphasis on rest and peace, encouraging loved ones to draw on their inner strength as they work through their grief.

  1. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) 

“Broken Vessels” is a rendition by Hillsong which includes the lyrics of the traditional funeral hymn, “Amazing Grace”. 

A great contemporary funeral hymn choice, “Broken Vessels” speaks of the Lord’s power of resurrecting us and mending our broken hearts. It also talks of finding solace in His spirit. The hymn is available in several other languages including Spanish, Russian and Swedish.

Music has a powerful influence over the hearts of those who listen to it. The use of funeral songs or hymns has the potential to provide ease, comfort and guidance to those who are grieving. It also has the power to uplift and celebrate a life that has touched many souls. If faith was important to your loved one, then one of these popular funeral songs and hymns can be a wonderful way to pay tribute and bask in the glory of God who is there for us in both life and death.

 

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