Hymns remain a popular choice of music for funerals in the UK, and not just for devoted church-goers either. Many people find comfort in including religious songs in their loved one’s service and certain hymns have remained popular funeral song choices over the years.
10. Ave Maria
This world-famous hymn, meaning ‘Hail Mary’ in Latin, has been performed by many famous singers and adapted by several different composers. The most famous tune is the one written by Schubert and has been praised as one of the most beautiful pieces of religious music ever written.
This hymn follows the progress of the sun in the sky throughout a day, reflecting on the passage of time and the importance of closeness to God. Many people find its message comforting during their grief: “The air is silent, earth is at rest – only your peace is near me. For you are always close to me, following all my ways.”
Another hymn using the metaphor of day and night, this classic funeral song is uplifting and hopeful, rather than sorrowful: “The dawn leads on another day, the voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.”
Written in 1931, many will have grown up singing this song at school or in church. With a cheerful melody and hopeful lyrics, Morning Has Broken is not essentially a song about loss or grief, but about life and renewal. It’s another example of a 'happy' hymn popular for funerals.
Often performed in a country and western style, Old Rugged Cross is first and foremost a song celebrating Jesus Christ and a dedication to serving God: “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down.”
Seen by many as England’s unofficial anthem, Jerusalem is a musical version of a poem by William Blake, written in 1804. With powerful lyrics and an uplifting melody, Jerusalem remains one of the most popular hymns for many religious occasions.
This stirring song is often played or accompanied by bagpipes at funerals and is famous for its message of salvation and finding peace after death: “Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.”
How Great Thou Art is based on a 19th century Swedish poem and the tune of a Swedish folk song. It rejoices in the beauty of nature and power of God: “I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”
Probably known by almost every person in the UK, this Anglican hymn is often sung and celebrated by many different churches within Christianity. Another song about celebration rather than mourning, it has remained a popular choice for funerals throughout the years.
Abide with me is a powerful Victorian hymn about asking God for comfort and help during the darkest of times. It is an ideal choice of funeral song for those grieving and needing guidance.
Based on Psalm 23, this well-known hymn offers a message of guidance and comfort, with a tune that even non-religious people will recognise. Like many of the other songs on this list, The Lord Is My Shepherd is an uplifting funeral song, more about finding guidance in grief than about the pain of grief itself.
If you are planning a loved one’s funeral, you can check out our collection of funeral hymns for more ideas.