Hymns bumped off funeral song sheets

Hymns are no longer in the top ten musical choices on funeral song sheets.

Old favourites like The Lord’s My Shepherd and Abide With Me are being relegated as mourners choose Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket Flowers or Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

At least that’s the case according to the UK’s biggest chain of funeral directors. They say for the first time since 2002 when they began their two-yearly statistics collection, not one traditional hymn made it into the top ten.

Data from Co-op Funeralcare, whose funeral directors arrange up to 100,000 ceremonies a year, show that, rather than traditionally sombre funerals, more personalised send-offs are favoured.

Supermarket Flowers, which is Sheeran’s tribute to his late grandmother written from the perspective of his mother, is the sixth-most popular choice.

Westlife’s You Raise Me sneaks in at No. 8.

Apart from in 2014, when Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life from the Monty Python film Life of Brian was the most popular, My Way has consistently held the No. 1 slot.

For those who prefer a send-off with classical-music, Edward Elgar’s Nimrod is the most popular although it isn’t among the top 10.

Co-op Funeralcare’s latest research shows about a quarter (24%) of UK adults (in a survey of 2,000) say they have already made clear which music they would like at their funeral, compared with just a fifth (19%) in 2016.

One in four wanted music played at their funeral to make people laugh. Popular rock songs chosen included Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, while Angels by Robbie Williams is the most requested pop tune.

Although hymns are traditionally associated with religious funerals, they are also chosen for humanist and secular funerals, Co-op Funeralcare says.

“What people want more than anything at a funeral is a combination of the personal and the familiar,” said a member of a Church of England focus group working on funerals.

“Contemporary lyrics, classical music and songs that have been the soundtrack of our lives are all valuable in helping people remember and grieve.

“For a family to be able to choose particular songs for a funeral led by a church minister – whether the music is expressly religious or not – is an important part of any service.”

Annual statistics released last year by the Church of England showed a decline in the number of people turning to the church for key life events, with 133,000 funerals compared with 139,000 in the previous year.

The top ten songs are:

1. My Way – Frank Sinatra

2. Time to Say Goodbye – Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

3. Over The Rainbow – Eva Cassidy

4. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler

5. Angels – Robbie Williams

6. Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran

7. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole

8. You Raise Me Up – Westlife

9. We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn

10. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Eric Idle


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