“In the funeral rites music possesses the power to console and strengthen the mourners and can help them to express their love and affection for the deceased. For these reasons, music for the celebration of the funeral rites should be chosen with great care.”
A Companion to the Catholic Book of Worship III: Guidelines for Liturgical Music, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 119.
Music for the funeral liturgy differs from secular funeral music in that it does not merely provide a background or mood for the occasion, but expresses the common prayer of those assembled. The most important musical elements in the liturgy are the responsorial psalm and, in the funeral mass, the other communal acclamations (“parts of the Mass”) led by the cantor and accompanied by organ.
Popular songs and secular pieces, while they may be very appropriate for a funeral reception, are not permitted in the funeral liturgy. The Principal Organist is responsible for assisting you in choosing appropriate music and musicians, working to ensure that the music is of high quality, and enhancing the prayerfulness and dignity of the funeral Mass.
Prelude music is customary in the 5-10 minutes before the funeral liturgy begins to welcome the assembly and set an appropriately prayerful tone. Preludes are usually left to the discretion of the organist or other musicians, though choral music suggestions below may be chosen to be included instead of instrumental ones:
Beati Quorum Via (Charles Villiers Stanford)
God so Loved the World (John Stainer)
Parce Mihi, Domine (Cristóbal de Morales)
Versa est in Luctum (Alonso Lobo)
The procession should be accompanied by a hymn sung by the assembly. The mood of the processional may be stately or meditative; both are equally appropriate.
Examples of Processional Hymns:
All You who Seek a Comfort Sure, CBWIII 425
Blest are the Pure in Heart, CBWIII 471
Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven, CBWIII 565
Word of God, from Mary’s Womb, CBWIII 428
You are the Way, CBWIII 441
The Psalm follows the first reading and is sung by the cantor, with responses sung by the assembly. Please consult the St. Basil’s website for Psalm listings.
Outside of Lent, this consists of an “Alleluia” response, led by the cantor, and a scriptural verse. Possible scriptural verses can be found on the St. Basil’s website.
Presentation of the Gifts
The presentation of the gifts, if it takes place, is generally very brief and calls for brief, often improvised music.
These parts (including the Sanctus, Memorial acclamation, Amen, and Agnus Dei) are normally to be sung by the whole assembly, led by a cantor. Otherwise, they are recited. The Lord’s Prayer is generally not sung.
A hymn to accompany communion can be sung by cantor and assembly, such as:
Christians, Let Us Love One Another, CBWIII 595
Jesus, Lord, have Mercy, WC 730
Lord of all Hopefulness, CBWIII 497
Alternatively, the cantor may sing an appropriate solo repertoire piece, such as:
Panis Angelicus (Cesar Franck)
The choir could otherwise provide its own Eucharistic offering:
Ave Verum Corpus (William Byrd)
God be in my Head (Henry Walford-Davies)
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (Johann Sebastian Bach)
Jesu, the Very Thought of Thee (Edward Bairstow)
O Sacred Feast (Healey Willan)
O Sacrum Convivium (Thomas Tallis)
Song of Farewell
This takes place during the Final Commendation, during the sprinkling of holy water and incensing of the casket. The traditional piece used is a short responsory:
I Know that my Redeemer Lives, CBWIII 10A
Amazing Grace, CBWIII 480
God of Love, WC 732
In Paradisum, CBWIII 639
O God, Our Help in Ages Past, CBWIII 644
Sing with All the Saints in Glory, CBWIII 406
The Lord’s my Shepherd, CBWIII 488