Music at Irish Funerals

Music is an important part of an Irish funeral.

Playing music at Irish funerals is part of the ceremonial way to say a final goodbye to your loved ones. The deceased person's family and friends may well find some comfort in the words they sing during the ceremony. Not all funeral music is sung, though. There are a number of musical options available.

How to Choose Funeral Music

Pre-planning of funerals has become a more popular option in recent years. As part of the process, the individual can choose the type of music he or she would like included in the ceremony. This is an opportunity to include a song that held particular meaning during the person's lifetime or that conveys a message of faith and hope after one has passed away.

When choosing music at Irish funerals (or any other type of funeral), do keep in mind the location where the service is being held. The music appropriate for a ceremony being held in the chapel of the funeral home may not be considered appropriate for a full Catholic funeral Mass being celebrated in a cathedral.

If the funeral is being held in a church, the organist or musical director may have some suggestions as to what is appropriate. The funeral director is a valuable resource who can be called on to provide some guidance, as well.

In a situation where you are called upon to choose funeral music, keep in mind that the funeral is designed to help the friends and relatives of the deceased to accept the reality of the person's passing. It is their chance to say goodbye. Whatever music you choose to include in the funeral service, be aware of the message contained in the lyrics and focus on faith and the concept that our loved ones are just away and that we will see them again.

Options for Music at Irish Funerals

Traditional Hymns

Here are some traditional hymns sung at funerals:

  • The Strife is O'er
  • O God, Our Help in Ages Past
  • Be Not Afraid
  • Amazing Grace
  • The King of Love My Shepherd Is
  • On Eagles Wings
  • Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

Other options for funeral music are:

  • Laudate Dominum by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach

Bagpipe Music

Bagpipe music tends to tug at one's heartstrings when played at a funeral. Irish, English and Scottish pipers can add a special touch to a funeral. Bagpipe music is especially appropriate at the funeral of an armed forces veteran. Here are some suggestions for bagpipe music at an Irish funeral:

  • The Dark Isle
  • Danny Boy
  • The Sally Gardens
  • Flowers of the Forest
  • She Walked Thro' the Fair

The Irish Wake

The word "wake" is now used in place of visitation (viewing the body at the funeral home before internment or cremation). A traditional Irish wake gives the deceased friends and extended family the opportunity to comfort the immediate family following the death of a loved one. In North America, the idea of a reception following the funeral can be considered a variation on the traditional Irish wake, which would have gone on from the time of death to the point at which the body would have been turned over to the Church (the night before the burial).

Music and the Irish Wake

Music and dancing are parts of a traditional Irish wake. In some cases, card games are played (and the deceased is dealt a hand as well!) as one of the activities. The goal is to gather together to remember the person who has passed on. Stories and memories are shared, along with tears. Food and drink are also part of a traditional Irish wake. The family shared the best of what they had with their guests.

As you can see music at an Irish funeral is an important part of the ceremony. If the music is chosen well, it can also help family and friends deal with their grief.

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Music at Irish Funerals