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Monty Python overtakes Frank in funeral favourites

Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (written by Eric Idle, right) has taken over from Frank Sinatra’s My Way as the most popular choice for songs played at funerals, according to new research from The Co-operative Funeralcare.

My Way had been the most popular choice for over a decade and only Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings has beaten it previously – back in 2002.

The research is based on over 30,000 funerals and charts the tunes of choice being played at services to celebrate and remember the lives of loved ones. It shows how humour, anthems from the football terraces, film and TV scores and poignant pop songs are ahead of many traditional hymns and classical compositions, making up six out of the 10 most popular choices.

Technology is bringing about another significant change, with almost one in five funeral homes highlighting the use of original music either penned by or performed by the deceased.

More than 84% of funeral directors say that hymns or classics are declining in popularity more quickly than any other music or performance type. The most requested hymn is The Lord is My Shepherd, followed by Abide with Me. The most popular classical piece remains Elgar’s Nimrod – Enigma Variations.

David Collingwood, operations director, said: “We may be seeing a generational shift in attitudes towards funerals and the choice of music being requested. Music plays such an important part in people’s lives that it now acts as the theme tune to their passing. Modern funerals are very much about personal choice, which can be reflected in the choice of music, dress, coffin, flowers, hearses or memorials.

“Lyrics provide poignant words, as well as a reminder of a hobby, pastime or sense of humour. The variety of songs played at funerals today illustrates how more and more people are choosing to personalise funerals, and celebrate their loved one’s life with a fitting farewell.”

Fewer songs are also being refused on the grounds of taste. In 2012 one in four funeral homes reported a declined music request, while the figure has now dropped to 16% nationwide, with Scotland only having one in 10 songs refused.

TV talent show winners have fared well, with Susan Boyle, One Direction and Sam Bailey all featuring in the lower reaches of the charts. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera, and Lily Allen’s Christmas hit Somewhere Only We Know both appear for the first time. Robbie Williams, Angels, Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bochelli, Time to Say Goodbye and Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On are ever-present, at numbers two, three and four in the list respectively.

Football-based choices are topped by You’ll Never Walk Alone; followed by Simply The Best; I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and Blue Moon.

While Frank Sinatra still tops the pop, rock and golden oldies genre, notable new entries in this top 20 include Ellie Goulding with How Long Will I Love You and Sarah McLachlan with Angel. Queen, Elvis, Eva Cassidy and Westlife are the artists with the most tracks requested, but Coldplay, Adele, Pink Floyd and Snow Patrol, Vera Lynn, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole also figure with more than one song.

The top TV Soap theme is Coronation Street, while music from Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing appears for the first time.

Performances by singers and musicians (other than organist) remain popular: The most common requests are for pipers and bagpipes in Scotland (25%), and male voice choirs in Wales (33%).

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