First of all, if you are reading this blog in regards to booking a funeral or have recently lost a loved one… I am extremely sorry for your loss. It can be extremely stressful finding the fitting music. This post will give you an insight to the history of bagpiping at funerals alongside a list of tunes that are traditionally played at funerals/memorials. I am listing 5 songs but there is no wrong song for a funeral. I have played a variety of music ranging from slow air’s to lively jigs, Abide with Me to 500 Miles (The Proclaimers).
For 100’s of years The Great Highland Bagpipe has been an instrument of war with the stirring sound spurring the Highlanders into battle, they were actually banned twice; once in 1560 after the Reformation and later on in 1747 after the Battle of Culloden. Now only used in show settings the Military still carry out the traditions of having Pipe bands within the Army and Royal Air Force. The pipes have always been part of the Celtic tradition eventually taking over the Harp as the national instrument in the 1700s, the pipes were also used at functions such as weddings, funerals, feasts and fairs.
Here is a list of 5 songs that I would traditionally play at a Funeral/ Memorial;
Amazing Grace: This beautiful song doesn’t need any introduction really, written in 1772 by the English poet John Newton. It was written to illustrate a sermon on New Years Day. Amazing Grace is an incredible tune as it fits the scale of the pipes perfectly.
Highland Cathedral: Although not a song that dates back 100’s of years, Highland Cathedral is a tune that is now recognised all around the world. Composed by 2 Germans, Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb had written this piece for the Highland games that took place in 1982. Also, a very popular tune to play alongside a drummer.
Flower of Scotland: Composed in 1965 and later heard publicly for the first time in 1967, this iconic number has become Scotland’s National Anthem (unofficial). Written by Roy Williamson, the song refers back to the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II in 1314. This tune in particular is sung with such passion. The song I was lucky enough to perform solo for the England v Scotland 2021 Guinness Six Nations, watch out for my blog about this…
Flowers of the Forest: This symbolic piece of music was composed between 1615-1625. This beautiful song is traditionally only played publicly at a funeral or memorial. Flowers of the Forest is only practised in private out of respect of the lyrical meaning of the tune. A very poignant piece that was beautifully played for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Funeral.
Scotland the Brave: Lastly a tune again that needs no introduction (every time I hear the name of this song, you can hear yourself humming the tune away; maybe just me…). A very patriotic piece dating back to the 1800s and later sung by Robert Wilson. Coming second to Flower of Scotland for the unofficial national anthem it is recognised all-round the world.
There are so many different songs to list, we would be here all week. Before the day of service, I would get in contact and would go through all the selections of songs. Like I said at the start, no song is the wrong one. Even if there is a song that you haven’t heard on the pipes before, let me know and I will do my best to help.
If you are looking for a Bagpiper for a funeral, please contact us today.