Church must decide on funeral music

Dear Editor, Sarah Carey's View (IC, 3/4/14) should be compulsory reading for the nations' priests and her treatise on the issue of sacred versus secular music at funerals was heartening. Clearly torn between the ‘official advice’ of expecting only sacred music whilst appreciating the role that secular music can play at heart-breaking times, she presented a straightforward example of what is going wrong in the context of music at funerals.

As a church musician – a minstrel, if you will – I am fed up (to the back teeth, even) encountering priests from different parishes who have different views and issue different demands on the kinds of music that they will/will not facilitate at a funeral Mass. What goes in one parish may not be acceptable in another, and what one priest is happy to hear during, for example, the reflection is likely to send another priest apoplectic. 

It's not as if musicians and singers like me haven't ever tried to explain to a bereaved family that the Mary referred to in Let It Be isn't actually Our Lady, and that while Arms of An Angel is a lovely song it isn't actually suitable for celebrating the life of a lost loved one: “So tired of the straight line / And everywhere you turn / There's vultures and thieves at your back / The storm keeps on twisting / Keep on building the lies / That you make up for all that you lack.” Charming.

What is needed is for the Church to once and for all make a decision on the issue. If sacred music (ie, hymns) is all that is appropriate during Funeral Masses, then so be it. If there is room for some appropriate (itself a subjective term) secular music, then let's have a list of what is 'appropriate'. Distribute the list to funeral directors and church musicians and then perhaps we can all sing from the same hymn sheet.

Sarah's sharpest point was, perhaps, that of the music used at celebrity funerals. If it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for the rest of us.

Yours etc.,

Declan Rankin,


Dublin 9.