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Music often adds an extra special dimension to a Life Celebration and it breaks up the speaking segments. If you are choosing to have the Funeral, Memorial or Celebration of Life at a mortuary then the Funeral Director may ask which songs you would like them to download on their often-outdated audio system. This is what is referred to as “canned music”. Although canned music is sometimes better than no music, live music is WAY better!

Unfortunately, I have officiated Celebrations of Life where the wrong music was downloaded and/or the music wasn’t played at the indicated times. In one instance, an inexperienced Funeral Director downloaded “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” instead of the family’s request of their mother’s favorite song, “Edelweiss”. A most embarrassing moment since I had just announced we would be listening to her favorite song, “Edelweiss”. Her son sitting in the front row looks at me and silently mouths “Oooops! When the music ended, I stood up and said, “Well, clearly that was not Edith’s favorite song, “Edelweiss”. I guess she may have tampered with the electronics and was wanting us to hear another song today.” Fortunately, everyone chuckled and we moved along with the amazing stories of her life.

There are a multitude of choices when it comes to having musicians play at a Celebration of Life instead of canned music. There is only one opportunity to have a fabulous farewell – so make it memorable! A few ideas are: piano, harp, trumpet, trombone, harmonica, banjo, violin, drums, guitar, flute, clarinet, cello, bagpipes, vocalists, quartets and even entire bands. One of the most memorable Celebrations that I officiated had a Country Music Band with 8 musicians. It was standing room only, there was singing, applause and laughter. What a sensational sendoff!

Attendance increases when people know that there will be entertainment at a Celebration of Life. One family sent out Announcements in the postal mail and another posted the details on social media. When people know in advance that it is a TRUE Celebration of Life they anticipate it will be uplifting as opposed to a traditional somber Funeral (often called a Celebration of Life, even though it is NOT.)

Avoid canned music at funerals and memorials

When planning an outdoor Celebration of Life, consider live music. OR if the sounds of nature are enough in the location you choose, then music may not add to the experience. In my own End-of-Life Wishes I documented “Open Bar, live music, and dancing encouraged.” It’s a great feeling to support local talent, isn’t it?

Can the canned music. Just say YES to live music!

Closing Thoughts

Baby Boomers are burying the boring Funeral and instead choosing creative, memorable Celebrations of Life for their parents and themselves. Cremation tends to be the preferred choice over casket burial and this allows for more time in planning a First-Class Celebration of Life. A couple of resources to find local musicians: GIGSalad and GigMasters

This post was originally published on 7/17/17 and updated on 6/13/19.

Anita Larson Denver Funeral Officiant

Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when planning a Fabulous Farewell.

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