Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Music for funerals? Choose something that won't let you down ...

Even in death it seems that we in Northern Ireland are a more conservative lot than the rest of Great Britain.

According to a survey, 68% of funeral services here still end with a hymn (most likely Abide with Me or The Lord is My Shepherd) while elsewhere in the UK the figure for hymns is down to a heathen 30%. Even those funerals which conclude on a popular song here are of the decidedly middle of the road variety - Over the Rainbow by Eva Cassidy, Robbie Williams' Angels and Westlife's You Raise Me Up. The only real surprise is Tina Turner's soft rock Simply the Best scraping into the Top 10. Of course, planning our own funeral service is a popular hour-filling daydream; a final opportunity to display to massed ranks of mourners just how funny, down-to-earth, sophisticated, tasteful, erudite and wise we were - showing them exactly what they are going to be missing from now on.

The readings would be witty and full of wisdom -plus just something ever-so offbeat (be it a contemporary poem or an extract from The Alan Shearer Story). Naturally, the music would show our extraordinary good taste. An alluring vision but ... isn't there also something very comforting about being part of great tradition? After all, in our consumerist society, we're forced to spend most of our lives proclaiming our individuality - even if it's mainly by buying products bought by tens of millions of others. I don't know about you, but our ceaseless quest to be unique is little short of exhausting. Why continue knackering yourself even after you're dead? No, perhaps a funeral should be a time to illustrate the commonality of being human, of how - even if its the fact that we all must die - we all share something. As for me, I'll stick with Abide With Me, an ideal song for eternity as opposed to a track from Westlife that seems to go on forever.

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