Classical music touches people in a very different way than contemporary music. Often, these songs are without lyrics and instead rely on melodies and tones to depict clear emotions. There are many amazing classical songs to choose from that range in meaning. Here, you'll find some of our favorite picks that are sure to be an incredible addition to your funeral planning process.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Funeral or Death March Songs
- Uplifting Classical Music for a Funeral
- Sad or Mellow Classical Funeral Music
- Classical Songs for a Funeral Entrance or Exit
Keep in mind, music is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the ceremony. It not only determines the mood of the funeral but can also be a critical part of the experience by those who attend. Make sure that you choose songs that mean something to you and can explain how you feel about the person who has passed away.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, ask your online guests to request songs them remind you of your deceased loved one, then play them during the virtual reception. Make a digital playlist of the requested songs and send the playlist's link out with your funeral thank you cards.
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Funeral or Death March Songs
The funeral or death march is an essential part of certain funeral ceremonies. It is the genre of music that sets the pace for the entire process. Here are a few of the most popular classical music options for funerals.
1. "Burial Service March" by Henry Purcell
There is a mood of longing and remembrance in this song. It is evenly played and has consistent drums that make for an ideal funeral march song.
2. "Funeral March" by Frederic Chopin
The most popular funeral march is the one written by none other than Chopin. It is commonly played at funerals around the world and adds something incredibly unique to the entire process.
3. "Funeral March on the Death of a Parrot" by Charles-Valentin Alkan
Bassoons and oboes make up the primary melodies used in this particular piece. It doesn't have as many stringed instruments as some of the other musical pieces, so this song is all about personal preference. It is timeless and a popular choice by many people.
4. "The Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Gonoud
This song later became a theme song for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but it has been used as part of a funeral procession before and since then. People are familiar with this song, and that alone helps put people at ease.
5. "Funeral March in the Manner of Callot"
This piece is a variant of the popular children's song "Frere Jacques." You may notice similarities as it is played. It has been played at funerals around the world for many years.
Uplifting Classical Music for a Funeral
People are often searching for the perfect uplifting song to play during a funeral. After all, this is an opportunity to provide some hope and reassurance to mourners. You'll be happy to learn that there is a variety of classic songs that will fit your needs. Here are some of our favorites.
6. "Nimrod" by Edward Elgar
Not only is this song often played at weddings and other celebratory events, but it has also gained popularity as a funeral song. The melody is a blend of soft sounds with powerful bursts of energy.
7. "Air on a G String" by Johanna Sebastian Bach
This melody is simple, but it holds so much emotion in each note. It's a bit of a slower song, but it still has hints of an uplifting tone that careful listeners will hear.
8. "Ava Maria" by Franz Schubert
Played at the funeral of United States President John F. Kennedy, this song is perfect for conveying feelings of loss. The melody delivers a sense of longing and remembrance that is ideal for a memorial service.
9. "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor" by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Strings and piano come together to create a blended sound that is equally sorrowful and uplifting. You simply can't go wrong adding this to your funeral playlist. You'll love the variety that this song presents.
10. "Cantata 208" by Robert King
The flutes in the song add a little bit of an uplifting tone that you may be seeking for a funeral service. It is beautiful as music alone, but with vocals, it is even more powerful.
11. "Mass in B Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach
You'll appreciate the gentle melody that this song has. It remains even and calm throughout without any significant crescendos. The lyrics that accompany this song are whimsical and pierce the heart.
12. "River of Light" by Sterling Roberts
If you want a powerful song that immediately evokes emotion, then this is the perfect funeral song for you. It is commonly played during various parts of the ceremony.
13. "Metamorphosis" by Phillip Glass
There are hints of sadness in this song, but it also evokes a feeling of peace and calmness that will be uplifting during a funeral ceremony. It is a sweet song that has an excellent undertone of pianos played throughout.
14. "Symphony No. 5" by Gustav Mahler
Calming is the best way to describe this piece. For many people, the peacefulness of this song easily translates into an uplifting funeral song that reminds us of a better tomorrow.
15. "Adagio in G minor" by Tomaso Albinoni
You can experience it all with this song. There are hints of sorrow and happiness throughout the entire melody, but ultimately it can mirror whatever mood you need it to. For a funeral, it may be nice to blend both feelings as that is likely what mourners are experiencing.
Sad or Mellow Classical Funeral Music
Music sets the tone for a funeral. If you want the ambiance to be sorrowful and sad, then you should select music that conveys that emotion. Here are a few classical songs that will hit the mark with a sad or mellow vibe.
16. "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber
This solemn song has been played in remembrance of Princess Diana, US President John F. Kennedy, and many more. It has the perfect blend of instruments that seem to convey perfectly what the heart may feel during the final farewell of a loved one.
17. "Irish Tune from County Derry" by Percy Grainger
You'll appreciate the tender feelings that this song creates. The french horn and violins blend in a perfect combination. It truly stirs emotion in your heart and becomes the ideal backdrop for a funeral.
18. "Canon in D" by Pachelbel
The mixture of violins and bass creates a beautiful blend of sound. It's somewhat sad but has hints of heartwarming that might bring a bit of hope to a difficult situation.
19. "The Lark Ascending" by Vaughan Williams
What you'll appreciate about this piece is that it can have meaning for whatever mood you are feeling in the moment. As a funeral song, it may come off as sorrowful and sad. The song is inspired by a poem of the same name.
20. "Cantus" by Arvo Pärt
This particular song evokes so much emotion, namely because it begins and ends with silence. While the music itself is moving, the silence allows listeners a moment to reflect on the ones that they have lost.
Classical Songs for a Funeral Entrance or Exit
The funeral entrance and exit can both play a critical role in the entire ceremony. In many ways, it sets the tone for a start and gives mourners something to hold onto as they leave. This selection process is important and should be done with ultimate care. Here are a few song selections to choose from.
21. "Lacrimosa" by Wolfgang Mozart
"Lacrimosa" actually translates to "weeping." It could make a good selection as a funeral entrance or exit song as it is a mournful piece. Only the first eight bars were completed by Mozart before his death.
22. "Adagio Lamentoso" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
This is the final song from this composer. It is said to be written as the ultimate goodbye song. Listening to the melody there is no questioning that it will bring a tear to your eye and a longing in your heart.
24. "The Lord's My Shepherd" by Massed Choirs of Yorkshire
This simple song is a fantastic addition to a funeral entry or exit. It is a popular religious funeral song that has been played countless times over the years.
25. "Gymnopedie No.1" by Erik Satie
You'll appreciate the ease of this song. It is not boisterous and carries a calming vibe, which may be appropriate for the start or end of a funeral ceremony.
Songs that Last a Lifetime
One of the most beautiful things about classical music is that it is timeless. Choosing from this genre will ensure that the ceremony is traditional, classy, and filled with exquisite music that will touch the hearts of many.
Consider how you would like you or your loved one to be remembered as you narrow in on which songs to include as part of the list. This is an incredibly special part of the planning and should be done so with considerable thought and care.