Upbeat Funeral Hymns?
  • Someone asked me to play for her sister's funeral on Friday, so I sent her a list of fifteen or so hymns, asking her to pick out which ones she wants me to play. My list was:

    The Strife is O're
    O God Our Help in Ages Past
    Song of Farewell (this is standard at the parish for the final commendation, so I have to use it; I told her it couldn't be changed)
    Holy God We Praise Thy Name
    Abide With Me
    I Know That My Redeemer Lives
    What Wondrous Love
    I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
    Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
    Jerusalem, My Happy Home
    The King of Love My Shepherd Is
    Be Still My Soul
    There's a Wideness in God's Mercy
    Lord of All Hopefulness

    This was her response:
    "Listened to the hymns, Song of Farewell is good, but wondered if there were any that was more about celebration of life or upbeat / happy being with Jesus?
    "Thank you for your suggestions"

    In the first place, I don't know what she's asking. Does she want something other than the Song of Farewell, which is not my decision? Or does she not like any of the others I offered? Does she want me to find more hymns? Are there any appropriate "upbeat" funeral hymns out there?
    Thanked by 1Cantus67
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,144
    Message back and ask her for clarification, repeating that "Song of Farewell" cannot be changed but that she can choose other hymns.

    And welcome to the MusicaSacra forums!!
  • Young Catholic Girl,

    Since I think you'll find the text of Lord of All Hopefulness quite hopeful, and likewise I heard the voice of Jesus say qualifies as not merely happy being with Christ, but RESTing with Him.....

    I think you should ask her what she means by "upbeat" and "celebration of life".

    If I read your relaying of the conversation properly, she doesn't dislike or disapprove of Song of Farewell.

  • I have had people ask me for more "upbeat" hymns. By that, they usually mean "contemporary." Like, praise band. (To which my answer is, no.)

    But even then -- and my parish uses Gather III so I have it in front of me as I write this from my office -- the vast majority of "contemporary" funeral stuff isn't "upbeat," either. So I suspect she doesn't know what she wants, either.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • just my $0.02, "In Paradisum" and the "Ave Maria" are about as upbeat as I could ask at a funeral.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,847
    People who ask for only happy-sounding songs are often in sadness but also in a bit of emotional denial, asking for music that really doesn't acknowledge the feelings they are experiencing. Funeral music needs to allow room for sadness and express the confidence given by our faith.

    Moreover, many people are influenced by non-Catholic ideas about funerals, and think of "celebration of life" and such. They forget what a Catholic funeral is about: mainly to pray for the deceased loved one, that she, a beloved but imperfect human being, will pass swiftly through purgatory to enter the joy of life with Jesus.

    A lot of people who are called upon to prepare funerals are family members who don't know lots of hymns or their tunes. Some of them may not be practicing Catholics. Even in the best of times, they are probably not able to choose hymns very well, and the parish should not expect them to do so.

    The choice of music that you make is part of the parish's care for the family and for the deceased, so it's good you take the lead. You can be open to specific suggestions, and take them if they are really good, but you're not there to search for new songs or offer a consumer-oriented music selection. So the process should start with the parish's recommendations for entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional, with two or three good options for each. You can leave out the non-discretionary items.

    So (unlike my colleagues above) I say: don't ask her what she means by "upbeat": that's just inviting more confused talk into the process. Instead, steer the process toward good choices, say no if you have to, and get the pastor's OK.

    The list you offer contains some fine choices. After all, what could be more upbeat than "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" sung to the tune "Duke Street"? (PDF here.)

    On the other hand, "The Strife is O'er" is not a good choice for funerals. With its reference to "strife" and "battle", which really refer to the passion of Christ, it sounds as though we were singing about the suffering of the deceased loved one, which is not a happy topic. So even in Easter season, it's insensitive to use this. Also, the tune is boring, let's face it.

    On the other other hand, "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name", a rhyming adaptation of the "Te Deum laudamus", is too cheery. It's 100% jubilation, so to sing this song of rejoicing at a funeral is like putting a happy-face sticker on the casket.

    But other songs on the list are fine: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is", "Jerusalem, My Happy Home", etc.

    The "In paradisum" which mmeladirectress suggested isn't upbeat, but it's beautiful and moving; I'll attach an English version, suitable to replace the "Song of Farewell" or follow the recessional.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 258
    Whenever you hear someone say "celebration of life" in regard to what was until about fifteen years ago exclusively referred to as a funeral, you immediately know you are dealing with someone who is not operating on the basis of a Catholic understanding of life, death, faith nor liturgical rites for the dead. "Celebration of life" is a dead giveaway that sentimentalism rules the day and people want to avoid any uncomfortable thoughts or songs about death and the afterlife. The focus will be on the life of the deceased, not praying for that person's soul with trust in the promises of Christ.

    In this particular case, the person's request for songs about "happy being with Jesus" strongly suggest that the deceased is considered to have been canonized by family and friends.

    That is not the faith of the Church.

    I agree the person doesn't seem to object to Song of Farewell.

    That person probably wants On Eagle's Wings and similarly comforting songs. Maybe also Amazing Grace.
  • Thank you very much to everyone for your help. The lady has now asked me for either Ave Maria or Amazing Grace (apparently, they were favorites of the deceased). I'll do Ave Maria for the offertory (I won't have a soloist, so it'll have to be instrumental). I am limited to the OCP Music Issue and Today's Missal for everything that will be sung (Communion will also be instrumental, Ave Verum), and while it does have In Paradisum and I really wish I could use it (in Latin), the situation is such that I don't think that will happen. All I need to know now is what she wants (from the list) for the Entrance and Closing.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen chonak
  • So, I told her I could play Ave Maria, then decided to go ahead and pick the other two myself. The entrance will be I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and the closing, Alleluia! Sing to Jesus. I sent the list to the parish secretary so she could print it in the "program" for tomorrow, found the music I need, and practiced. Then, I get another email from the lady, wanting The Strife is O're, O God Our Help in Ages Past, Ave Maria (at Communion), and Holy God We Praise Thy Name (those were all on the list, except Ave Maria). I wrote back and said I was sorry, but I had already sent the list to the office to be printed and told her what I had picked. I haven't heard anything else yet.
    I think the moral of the story is to ask if there is anything specific the family wants, but not to let them pick anything else. I'm new at this. I'll learn.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,076
    That's probably a good plan. If they don't have specific requests, then plan to select the music yourself.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    We have a form in the parish office that people fill out specifying what they want for their funerals. When they pass on, we get out the form and go with it. No discussion with family or distant relatives who wants something strange.
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • MarkB
    Posts: 258
    CharlesW, do the pre-deceased when submitting their pre-death funeral plan also prepay the musicians and others? Seems to me there could be some conflict if the musicians want to follow the plan presubmitted by the deceased but the family are the ones cutting the check and they have different ideas.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    There is no conflict. The pastor insists that we be paid. Usually the check comes from the funeral home which includes it as part of the funeral expenses.
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 318
    Perhaps too late to help the OP but my favourite upbeat funeral hymn is Thine be the Glory, with its closing lines 'Endless is the victory Thou o'er death hast won'.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I do know not to play, "Father, We Thank Thee Who Has Planted."
  • cmb
    Posts: 62
    We really do need better catechesis on the true purpose of a Catholic funeral. Alas, we are fighting against the popular culture and the funeral industry. I see ads all the time for funeral homes promoting their "reception venues" and showing people mingling and drinking glasses of wine while reminiscing about the deceased. Ugh.

    In regards to an actual music suggestion, All Creatures of Our God and King has a verse that is appropriate:
    And thou most kind and gentle death,
    Waiting to hush our latest breath,
    O praise Him! Alleluia!
    Thou leadest home the child of God,
    And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    It seems many Catholics no longer even have a funeral mass. Just a ceremony usually somewhere besides church.
  • I got to the organ this morning to start warming up before Mass, and when I looked at the "program", I saw that the hymns listed were the ones that had been in the last email I had received from the lady after I had already sent a different list to the office. I asked the secretary, and she said that the listed hymns were the ones she had received from the deceased's sister after she had gotten my list. No one had told me about that, and as I had only brought the music I was expecting to play, there wasn't anything I could do and I figured hardly anyone would sing anyway. I was right. I think most of the congregation was Protestant and the little singing I heard was probably done by the smattering of parishioners who attended.
    All in all, it went well and I think (and hope) the family appreciated it. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,144
    I'm glad it went well for you, in spite of all the chaotic goings on.
    Thanked by 1youngcatholicgirl
  • JesJes
    Posts: 510
    If the dead person was filled with faith you could do...
    "We stand for God"
    It's upbeat whilst not denying that for God we both live and die.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Handel's The Trumpet Shall Sound?

  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    The USCCB website has the following page

    Scroll down for numerous links, including a link to a webpage about music.
    Thanked by 2chonak Jes
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 191
    The whole ideology of funerals/requiems is one of thanksgiving to God, praise to the Son for redemption, praise to the Holy Ghost for sanctification and generally speaking one of comforting for the bereaving. That being said something too upbeat seems out of place and lacking tactfulness. So, what about what about a piece filled with comfort and mercy?



    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • At a recent funeral, we did "Where is death's sting? We were not born to die" from The Hymnal 1940 (to Gibbons' SONG 1). Sounds like it might be what you're looking for.
  • My rule of thumb with funerals: Ask the family if they have any specific requests for music. Fit them into the procession/offertory/retiring procession along side (read: after) the propers. Sometimes I do Ave Maria (Schubert) in place of the offertory proper for Novus Ordo funerals.