What tunes are played for a memorial service?

In Scotland and Ireland, the bagpipe was the music of every facet of life, including memorial ceremonies. Today, a bagpipe at a funeral can be a statement of remembrance, of mourning as well as a statement of Scottish or Irish Heritage.

I've played at many church services, funeral homes, gravesides, concert hall memorials and at Fort Custer National Cemetery. I've played for people of every age and from every walk of life.  I've played at services for those whose life was cut short all too soon and at celebrations those who had enjoyed a full life, well lived.

The single most important aspect of any music played at the service is that it must reflect and/or create the mood desired. Even if you don't know the names of songs, you should tell the piper what mood you are trying to create. She/He can help set that mood using the songs in their repertoire.

Some of the points where music is appropriate at a church service include the prelude, entry of the clergy and deceased, hymn, recessional, and postlude/departure for the cemetery.

At a cemetery, I'll generally pipe as the cortege arrives and continue to play until the pastor is ready to speak. At the end of the service I'll play again and either "walk away" while playing Amazing Grace or continue to play as family and friends leave.  Working with Honor Guards is exactly that - an honor.

Probably the biggest concern that's raised at these times is "Can you play (insert name of tune here!)?"

There are dozens of pipe tunes that are very appropriate for these affairs.

A few that I like include:

Amazing Grace
Auld Lang Syne
Danny Boy
Dark Island
Euan Gordon Campbell
Flower of Scotland
Flowers of the Forest
Going Home - (Dvorak) (a.k.a. Theme from the New World Symphony)
Green Hills of Tyrol
Hasten and Come with Me
Highland Cathedra
Iain Ruaidh's Lament
Lindisfarne Cathedral
Lord Lovat's Lament
Mhicleoid's Oran Mor
Mist Covered Mountains of Home
Rowan Tree
St. Columba
Skye Boat Song
Sleep, Dearie, Sleep
When the Battle's O'er

Many non-piping tunes will work as well. (See What can and cannot be played on the bagpipe?) A few of these include:

Taps (Day is Done)
Abide with Me
A Might Fortress is Our God
Come Thou Long Expected, Jesus (Hyfrydol)

Some commonly requested tunes that will not work on the bagpipe include:

How Great Thou Art
On Eagles Wings
The Old Rugged Cross

I'd be more than happy to suggest other tunes from within my repertoire for each part of the service and/or to evaluate a tune to see if it can be played on the bagpipe. Please contact me for more information on this subject.

Copyright S.K. MacLeod 1996-2016