The Funeral Singer
Reverend Kate Bottley investigates the increasing demand for professional funeral singers in Britain as mourners seek to create memorable events around funerals and cremations.
Reverend Kate Bottley investigates the increasing demand for professional funeral singers in Britain.
Live music has long accompanied the religious and secular farewells to our dear departed but, in the past, was more likely to be a reserved for a select few - Kings, Queens and Archbishops with a cathedral choir singing a requiem mass to send them on their way.
In the 19th Century, some ordinary people decided that what was good enough for the gentry was good enough for them and a diluted version of this practice spread to churches, with a choir singing a favourite hymn or two.
In more recent times, sophisticated sound equipment has meant that any song - usually performed by the artist that wrote it or made it famous - could be played at a church service or crematorium funeral. Favourites include My Way, Wind Beneath My Wings and Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.
But today, a simple CD is not enough for an increasing number of mourners. Only a live singer will do to mark the passing of their loved ones. Funeral singer websites and booking agencies - often a spin off from wedding singer providers - are proliferating.
Kate Bottley talks to agencies catering for this growth in demand, the singers, bereaved family members, funeral directors, clergy, academics and others - to discover why it seems that, increasingly, only live music is good enough to say a memorable farewell to people who cannot hear the performance, and what this says about death in Britain today.
A Butterfly Wings production for BBC Radio 4.