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Funeral Hymns & Organ Voluntaries

September 24, 2009

I love to play funerals.  While this may seem strange, if you think about it, it makes sense.  At a funeral we see sin at its worst, with no hope left.  But we also know that they have passed through death and are now feasting with the Lamb in His kingdom that shall have no end.  Death has been swallowed up in victory, or as Pastor Weedon put it at the Higher Things conference this past summer (I paraphrase:  Christ has torn open Shelob’s (death) belly, where it can no longer hold Christians.  (Weedon said it much more eloquently.)  So the music will be solemn and reflective, as well as joyful and triumphant.

I thought I’d list some of my favorite funeral hymns, as well as voluntaries.  You can add your favorites in the comments.  I look forward to reading them.

This is not an exhaustive list, but merely some of the hymns and pieces I like for funerals.  It is in no particular order.

Hymns (all hymn numbers are from Lutheran Service Book):

708 Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart

677 For All the Saints

656 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

645 Built on the Rock

450 O Sacred Head No Wounded (especially st. 7)

467 Awake, My Heart, with Gladness

476 Who Are You Who Walk in Sorrow

490 Jesus Lives!  The Victory’s Won

578 Thy Strong Word

670 Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

672 Jerusalem the Golden

676 Behold a Host, Arrayed in White

594 God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It

596 All Christians Who Have Been Baptized

Organ Voluntaries:

Lift High the Cross – Charles Ore

Rejoice, O Pilgrim Throng – Charles Ore

Ein Fest Burg (A Mighty Fortress) – Helmut Walcha

The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended – Jeffrey Blersch

The list got a little long, but I hope it is helpful and maybe will even produce some discussion.

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From → Church Music, Hymns

12 Comments
  1. We sang the TLH version of 676 for my grandmother’s funeral. It needs singing beyond funerals just because people apparently aren’t using to singing it now.

    My faves are 645, 578, and 490.
    This shall be my confidence. :)

  2. I’d much rather play for a funeral than a wedding. (I’ve been practicing for a wedding the last few days).

    Your list includes most of my favorites. I would also add:

    For Me to Live is Jesus LSB 742
    I Know That My Redeemer Liver LSB 461
    The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done LSB 464

    Favorite Voluntaries:

    Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart – Settings by Krebs and J.G. Walther

    Sheep May Safely Graze – J.S. Bach

    God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It – Hildebrand & Blersch

    I Know That My Redeemer Lives – Burkhardt & Callahan

  3. It seems to be a common theme that musicians would rather play at funerals than weddings.

  4. Ruth permalink

    The funeral “honoree” is not as apt to complain about the music. I’m not an organist, but I love funeral music.

  5. IggyAntiochus permalink

    An outside-the-box hymn would be LSB 878, Abide with Me. It is comforting to the grieving and affirms the hope of the cross and resurrection in the final verses.

    I also like LSB 633, At the Lamb’s High Feast.

    LSB 594, God’s Own Child, is excellent, but my congregation is slow to learn this one. Perhaps if I am blessed with a soloist I can work it in.

    I’ll play any funeral if at all possible, and I don’t normally get a stipend for them. I don’t play weddings anymore. No amount of $ can compensate me for all that stress!

    I reconsidered the wedding issue a few years back when the mother of the bride came into rehearsal at a Lutheran Church and said, “Jill is going to sing Ave Maria, right?”

  6. Abide With Me is another great one that I forgot. I love the final stanza: “Hold Thou Thy Cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies, Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee, In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.” Great stuff!

    And 633 is another one that is great that I neglected to put in. It speaks of just where the person is, at the Feast of the Lamb who was slain and who lives for us eternally.

    Thanks for all the comments!

  7. PCXIAN permalink

    All songs above are excellent. I would add two more contemporary songs that speak to the resurrection and our heavenly home: “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher, and Jesse Reeves; and “There Will Be a Day” by Jeremy Camp

    • I am not familiar with either. Could you point me to the texts of these? I would like to see them. Thanks!

  8. PC Christian permalink

    Nathan, Here they are. These songs are not really organ material but “I Will Rise” could possibly be sung and played with a organ, certainly a piano.

    Both songs can be purchased through ITunes for around a dollar and sheet music goes for about $3.50 online.

    “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher, and Jesse Reeves ©sixsteps Music/ worshiptogether.com

    There’s a peace I’ve come to know
    Though my heart and flesh may fail
    There’s an anchor for my soul
    I can say “It is well”

    Jesus has overcome
    And the grave is overwhelmed
    The victory is won
    He is risen from the dead

    [Chorus:]
    And I will rise when He calls my name
    No more sorrow, no more pain
    I will rise on eagles’ wings
    Before my God fall on my knees
    And rise
    I will rise

    There’s a day that’s drawing near
    When this darkness breaks to light
    And the shadows disappear
    And my faith shall be my eyes

    Jesus has overcome
    And the grave is overwhelmed
    The victory is won
    He is risen from the dead

    [Chorus:]
    And I will rise when He calls my name
    No more sorrow, no more pain
    I will rise on eagles’ wings
    Before my God fall on my knees
    And rise
    I will rise

    And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
    “Worthy is the Lamb”
    And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
    “Worthy is the Lamb” [x2]

    [Chorus:]
    And I will rise when He calls my name
    No more sorrow, no more pain
    I will rise on eagles’ wings
    Before my God fall on my knees
    And rise
    I will rise

    “There Will Be a Day” by Jeremy Camp ©2008 Stolen Pride Music/THirsty Moon Publishing

    I try to hold on to this world with everything I have
    But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that trys to grab
    The many trials that seem to never end, His word declares this truth,
    that we will enter in this rest with wonders anew

    But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
    That there will be a place with no more suffering

    There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
    There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
    But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always

    I know the journey seems so long
    You feel your walking on your own
    But there has never been a step
    Where you’ve walked out all alone

    Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
    Cause joy and peace he brings
    And the beauty that’s in store
    Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

    I can’t wait until that day where the very one I’ve lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I’ve faced
    To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery this is why this is why I sing….

    There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
    There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face

    There will be a day, He’ll wipe away the stains, He’ll wipe away the tears, He’ll wipe away the tears…..there will be a day.

    Semper Fidelis, PC Christian

  9. PCXIAN permalink

    Chris,

    Here’s another beautiful hymn that is perfect for the piano.

    Chris Rice – Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) Lyrics

    Weak and wounded sinner
    Lost and left to die
    O, raise your head, for love is passing by
    Come to Jesus
    Come to Jesus
    Come to Jesus and live!

    Now your burden’s lifted
    And carried far away
    And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
    Sing to Jesus
    Sing to Jesus
    Sing to Jesus and live!

    And like a newborn baby
    Don’t be afraid to crawl
    And remember when you walk
    Sometimes we fall…so
    Fall on Jesus
    Fall on Jesus
    Fall on Jesus and live!

    Sometimes the way is lonely
    And steep and filled with pain
    So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
    Cry to Jesus
    Cry to Jesus
    Cry to Jesus and live!

    O, and when the love spills over
    And music fills the night
    And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
    Dance for Jesus
    Dance for Jesus
    Dance for Jesus and live!

    And with your final heartbeat
    Kiss the world goodbye
    Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
    Fly to Jesus
    Fly to Jesus
    Fly to Jesus and live!

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