A Piper for a Memorial Service or Funeral

Providing bagpipe music to lament the passing of a loved one is central to the roll of a piper. In this difficult time, it is important to honor the wishes of the family and, especially the deceased, in their desire to have a piper for their service.

Some important questions to be considered in making a few appropriate selections for a memorial service:

What were the specific requests, if any, of the deceased as to having bagpipe music provided for their memorial service?

“Amazing Grace” has to top the list of all time most requested tune for funeral services. It is a beautiful tune powerfully rendered on the bagpipe in both a “military” and a more familiar “gospel” setting. “Going Home” is another popular selection from the familiar pieces that I try to suggest as well as “The Water is Wide” which I also highly recommend.

Was the deceased a veteran? I try to ask this question in order to suggest “The Flowers of the Forest,” a traditional funeral slow march most associated with remembering fallen veterans but is often used for any memorial occasion.

Was the deceased a Mason? I ask only because I am also a Mason and I want to provide the best possible selections for rites that are specific to the interment of a freemason such as “The Sash My Father Wore,” “The Mason’s Apron,” and “Khartoum Temple.”

To my mind, a funeral can consist of one or both of two distinct services:

 1) A church/ memorial service and/or

 2) A graveside service/ interment.

I have played for either one or the other, but more often, for both. Like any story, they both have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Using music in these three specific places is usually most effective to give a service a sense of coming together, continuity, and closure. Music before or after prayer or scriptural readings makes an effective transition for services. I often play as people are arriving or gathering at either kind if service, especially graveside and interments. I believe this sets a solemn mood fit for the occasion and allows some reflection for the bereaved as the activities of the service are conducted by the funeral directors and officiants (placing flowers, placing of the casket, seating the family, directing traffic and parking, coordinating with ministers and pastors at the last minute and so on).

Other tunes that I have played at funeral services:

Any of a number of laments from the piobaireachd repertoire that I know.

1)      Lord Lovat’s Lament

2)      Lochaber No More

3)      Abide with me

4)      Oft in the Stilly Night

5)      The Dark Island

6)      The Skye Boat Song

7)      The Waters of Kylescu

8)      The Fair Maid of Barra

9)      Sou Gan

10)    Loch Rannoch

11)    Morag of Dunvegan

12)    The Highland Cradle song

13)    The Mist Covered Mountains

14)    And just about any decent slow air or slow march will suffice…

15)    And even “Taps,” although I can only recommend it with some reservation since it’s really a bugle or trumpet tune.