Deceased do it their way with music to die for
ITALIANS demand Mozart, Germans want heavy metal and Brits must have Robbie Williams, according to a survey yesterday of the most popular tunes for funeral services across Europe.
The bizarre choices - which also include hits by the rock group Queen and Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - show a wide range of "music to die for" across nine European countries, including Finland, France and Denmark.
The research suggests Germans favour guitar-led songs by bands such as AC/DC and Metallica to be played at their funeral, while Italians and Spaniards prefer more classical music.
It could mean churches and crematoria across Europe having to update their music collections to reflect a growing trend towards more personalised ceremonies.
More than 45,000 adults across Europe were polled on their choice of funeral tune by digital television channel, Music Choice.
Queen’s The Show Must Go On was voted No 1 funeral song by one in five Europeans, with Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven coming in second and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell third.
Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever and Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters also featured strongly.
In the UK, Robbie Williams’ Angels came out top, followed by the Frank Sinatra anthem My Way. Among other popular British choices were Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings as well as Amazing Grace.
The European results were also broken down country by country. Norway’s favourites include Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Viva Las Vegas by Elvis. The French top five was dominated by French music, while Mozart’s Requiem was the top choice in Italy. Spaniards and Finns prefer Albinoni’s mournful Adagio For Strings.
Rebecca Barrett, of Music Choice, said: "Music can be very personal, indeed it often helps create a sense of identity. Wanting to share your most treasured musical gem with those you’re leaving behind is the perfect way to sign off and leave a lasting impression.
"It is interesting that the French preferred French songs and classical music and didn’t really go for the sort of heavy rock metal that is popular in Germany. There was such a different set of choices between those two countries.
"The choices in the Catholic, Mediterranean countries were also more classically influenced and perhaps a bit more sentimental, with the likes of Let It Be by The Beatles and Imagine by John Lennon. We do tend to go for pop tunes in Britain but that just reflects our national taste."
The 20,000 British participants in the poll clung on to their ironic side with nearly one in five of those polled choosing to have Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the Monty Python film Life of Brian.
Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven was No 1 for funerals in Sweden, while There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths came in at No 3. In Denmark, local talent Kim Larsen topped the bill with Om Lidt Bli’r Her Stille the most requested funeral music.
Dominic Maguire, a Glasgow funeral director and a spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors, said: "Seventy per cent of funerals now involve cremations, while only 25 per cent involve a church service.
"Obviously, with the trend towards more secular ceremonies, funeral directors are increasingly being asked to include exotic choices of music. Hymns such as Abide With Me and the Frank Sinatra song My Way are obvious choices.
"There is anecdotal evidence that people are even choosing rock tunes. A funeral director in Glasgow was recently handed a CD of Queen’s greatest hits and asked to play Bohemian Rhapsody, although there was the risk that another track on the same CD, Another One Bites the Dust, was played instead."
Dr Tony Walter, a sociologist at the University of Reading and an expert on funerals, said: "There is a huge difference between what people would like to have played at their funeral and what actually gets played. I would imagine family members having something to say about some of the more unusual requests on this list.
"I’m not surprised that the British went for songs where the words had a clear and simple meaning.
"There is an enormous variety in the way different countries approach funerals and the notion of grief and remembrance, and this survey reflects social attitudes to acceptable choices. It would be hard for the average Italian to consider AC/DC at a funeral - they are more likely to have a traditional church service in mind."
He added that across Scandinavia, with the exception of Finland, cremations are the norm rather than burial, suggesting perhaps that people in Denmark, Sweden and Norway feel more able to choose pop or rock tracks.
"I would imagine the choices in Scotland are more conservative because of the stronger religious influence on the funeral ceremony," Dr Walter said.
"So many people these days are going for non-religious funerals, and music is the way they can stamp their identity on the ceremony. It stands to reason that people have already thought about what they would like to have played at their funeral because everyone has a strong idea of how they would like to be remembered.
"In many ways, Robbie Williams and Frank Sinatra are quite naff choices, but My Way is such an anthem about individuality and that is exactly what people are trying to create by choosing non-conventional music. So I suppose it is to be expected.
"Many crematoria are run by local authorities and sometimes asking for something a bit different is the only way of making the event seem less municipal. And there’s nothing more miserable than choosing hymns and then having only a few people singing along."
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