What are the best classical pieces for funerals (2024)

While these pieces all come from the Christian tradition, there is no reason not to use them for a moment of beauty and reflection in a secular service too. You can hear our singers singing some of these pieces on our Listen page.

1. Ave Maria


A short, quiet and focused piece, usually for a solo female voice. Particularly popular for Catholic funeral Masses, but universally loved even for non-religious funerals. The lyrics are in either Latin or German, and honour the Virgin Mary - you might recognise the prayer "Hail Mary, full of grace". This can be performed a cappella, but is usually accompanied on organ.

2. Panis Angelicus


Can be a solo or choir piece, but we like it best as a male/female duet. The two overlapping voices are peaceful, harmonious and comforting, with moments of spine-tingling emotion. Sung in Latin, the lyrics mean 'Angelic Bread', and it's designed for Communion.

3. In Paradisum


This is from a Requiem, a group of pieces written especially for funerals. In Paradisum is designed for the end of the service and commends the person who has died to Heaven - the title means "Into Paradise". A hauntingly beautiful flowing piece for at least 6 voices, it builds gently with moving swells of emotion. When sung well, the high female voices sound like the angels that are called upon in the lyrics.

4. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth


From Handel's Messiah. A traditional piece, for a solo female voice. The piece affirms faith in Jesus' return, and is designed to showcase the beauty of the soprano singing voice. It's a virtuoso piece with surety and confidence, perfect for making an impact. It's commonly heard at royal occasions, and gives a real feeling of ceremony, tradition, and (despite its German composer), Britishness.

5. Ave Verum Corpus


A short, reflective piece for a minimum of four voices. Written six months before Mozart's death, this beautiful piece moves through major and minor sections, making it a perfect expression of the different emotions that you might be feeling at a time like this. Meaning "Hail, the true body", this is another piece written for Communion, and is truly one of our absolute favourites.

6. Ave Maria


Like Schubert's version of Ave Maria mentioned above, this piece is for a solo female voice. However its tune is completely different, and the lyrics are simply 'Ave Maria' repeated throughout, in beautiful rolling cadences. It has a more flowing, richer, and slightly mournful feel, and the tingling beauty of the high notes give it incredible poignancy. Another piece for a virtuoso soprano that really does justice to the emotion of the day.

7. Pie Jesu

Andrew Lloyd-Webber

You might be surprised to see Lloyd-Webber in this list, but as well as composing West End musicals he wrote a classical Requiem for his late father in 1985. Best known as a duet for two female voices, this piece soars with beauty while still feeling calm, steady, and respectful. The lyrics are from parts of the Mass, and ask for eternal rest.

8. Do Not Be Afraid


A relatively modern piece written for a choir. Based on words from Isaiah, the simple and heartbreaking message is clear from the title. If you're looking for comfort and solace from your music, this is the piece for you. The harmonies are spellbinding, and the lyrics (which are in English) feel like a big warming hug. Written for at least 8 voices and sung a cappella, this piece requires a conductor.

9. The Lord Is My Shepherd


Not to be confused with the Crimond setting of this song, which you may know as a church hymn. This version was made popular as the theme tune for The Vicar of Dibley. The words are from a Psalm, which is sometimes spoken in the funeral service, but can also be sung (as in this piece). It has a simple, positive, and comforting message, moving between lovely high solo passages and full-bodied choir moments.

10. Sanctus


Another piece from Fauré's Requiem, the Sanctus has its roots in the Greek orthodox tradition and celebrates the glory of God. Beginning softly, with haunting angelic echoes between the male and female voices, the piece builds towards a triumphant and rousing section by the male voices toward the end. This piece requires organ accompaniment and can be ornamented by a solo violin.

For more guidance, visit our Articles page to read our lists of popular modern funeral songs, hymns, and Musical Theatre songs.

What are the best classical pieces for funerals (2024)


What classical music is suitable for a funeral? ›

Some of the most popular classical music for funerals include:
  • Canon in D – Paachelbel.
  • Nimrod from Enigma Variations – Elgar.
  • The Four Seasons – Vivaldi.
  • Ave Maria – Schubert.
  • Pie Jesu – Fauré
  • Adagio – Albinoni.
  • Air on a G String – Bach.

What is the classic song always played at funerals? ›

A timeless classic that's recognized and loved by countless people, Ave Maria might be the most popular classical song for funerals. Many believe it's the perfect piece for honoring loved ones, as it's an adaptation of the traditional Roman Catholic prayer.

What is the saddest song to play at a funeral? ›

Sad funeral songs
  • I'll See You Again – Westlife.
  • Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy.
  • Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler.
  • Nothing Compares to You – Sinead O'Connor.
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd.
Jun 20, 2023

What is a good entrance song for a funeral? ›

Music for Funerals Entrance. The entrance music sets the tone for the ceremony, evoking emotions of reverence and respect. Popular choices often include classical pieces like "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber or "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.

What is the most played song at a funeral? ›

Top hymns
1All Things Bright and Beautiful TraditionalUp 5 places
2Abide With Me TraditionalDown 1 place
3The Lord Is My Shepherd TraditionalDown 1 place
4Amazing Grace TraditionalDown 1 place
6 more rows

What's a good song for someone who passed away? ›

Paul McCartney - Here Today. Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On. Faith Hill - You're Still Here. Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day.

What is the most beautiful hymn at a funeral? ›

Here are seven of the most popular hymns for funerals:
  1. Jerusalem. And did those feet in ancient time. ...
  2. The Lord's My Shepherd (Psalm 23) The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want; ...
  3. Abide With Me. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; ...
  4. Amazing Grace. Amazing grace! ...
  5. How Great Thou Art. ...
  6. The Old Rugged Cross. ...
  7. Lord of All Hopefulness.

What is a beautiful funeral song? ›

Ave Maria, Celine Dion

The melody is equally beautiful and heartbreaking, touching the heart of each and every listener. Ave Maria is one of the most popular prayer songs, but it's perfect for any kind of funeral service.

What is the oldest funeral song? ›

Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey.

What is the best song to say goodbye to someone you? ›

“I'll Be There for You” – The Rembrandts. “I'll Stand by You” – The Pretenders. “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” – Patty Loveless. “It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” – Boyz II Men.

What is voted as the saddest song of all time? ›

What's the saddest song of all time?
  • REM – Everybody Hurts.
  • Sinead O'Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U.
  • Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven.
  • Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You.
  • The Beatles – Yesterday.
  • Adele – Someone Like You.
  • Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On.
  • Roy Orbison – Crying.
Mar 8, 2022

What is a happy song to leave at a funeral? ›

1: What a Wonderful World– Louis Armstrong

One song particularly embodies what a “happy funeral song” sounds like to most people. This timeless gem is Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World,” a poignant and uplifting melody that transcends cultural boundaries.

What is the song close your eyes at a funeral? ›

“You Can Close Your Eyes” – James Taylor

This soft, acoustic melody with uplifting and thoughtful lyrics makes this song one that serves as a beautiful tribute to the deceased.

What is the most played country song at a funeral? ›

Top 12 Country Songs for a Celebration of Life Service
  • Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Patsy Cline) ...
  • Angels Among Us (Alabama) ...
  • Go Rest High on That Mountain (Vince Gill) ...
  • The Dance (Garth Brooks) ...
  • Daddy's Hands (Holly Dunn) ...
  • One More Day (Diamond Rio) ...
  • When I Get Where I'm Going (Brad Paisley, featuring Dolly Parton)
Jan 26, 2018

What classical music was played at Princess Diana's funeral? ›

One of Tavener's best-known works, the Song For Athene achieved fame and significance after it was performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

What is the traditional song played at a funeral? ›

All Things Bright and Beautiful is one of the most popular hymns played at funerals, celebrating the beauty of life; this funeral hymn is generally an uplifting song.

Is Moonlight Sonata played at funerals? ›

Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven

The first movement is most appropriate for a funeral. With its stark piano melody and dramatic bass notes, it would establish a very sad and serious mood. The second movement is much livelier and more upbeat.

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