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How music can help with our wellbeing

We all know how music can lift our mood and how, sometimes, we can find solace in listening to sad tunes. Music can also bond us. How many of us enjoyed singing ‘Football’s Coming Home’ recently or watched bands at Glastonbury.


Studies show that music can have a real impact on our wellbeing. In a video for BBC Bitesize DJ Nick Grimshaw spoke to Professor Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster.


“We’ve all been in that mood when we’re not feeling great and we turn to music to help us feel better; it can elevate our mood,” Nick said.


Professor Catherine explained: “We’ve known for many years that music is very good for our health and you can see that measurably in the body. We can see changes in stress chemicals in the body and changes in our immune response, our heart rate and so on. Music makes a really good physical impact on our body. But it’s also really interesting to look at the ways in which music affects our wellbeing. It can really help us with relaxation, to regulate our emotions, motivate us, enable us to study and to sleep.”


She continued: “If people are feeling sad, then listening to sad songs can be helpful. It can enable us to reflect and help us to feel like we’ve got somebody there with us who is reflecting our feelings.”


It’s not surprising that music is used as therapy in some settings, such as when working with people who have had a brain injury, while hospices and children’s centres are increasingly seeing the power of music as therapy.


We know that, when it comes to grief, music can have a profound affect. We’ve probably all been in the situation where we are to a certain extent ‘getting on with the day’ and a piece of music will catch us by surprise. It could be something you know a loved one had liked or it simply unlocks a memory.


Because music plays a big part in many of our lives, it’s not surprising that selecting music for a loved one’s funeral is done with great care. If they’ve had a favourite singer in their lives, then it’s not unusual for families to want to choose a track by that person.


Music can dictate the mood or rhythm of a funeral service. It is usual to select a reflective piece of music while people find their seats and then something more meaningful when people are leaving. This last piece might range from a sombre offering through to a more upbeat tune. It might even be a funny song which really represents that person. Over the years, we’ve also had requests for a number of football-related anthems for instance.


If our families want a religious or more traditional element to the service, then it’s not unusual for somebody to chose a hymn they might have had at their wedding.


Music plays a number of roles in a service. It ties people together and provides some time of reflection between the more formal aspects' giving a chance to draw breath. Often there’s a section in a service when attendees are invited to simply listen to a piece of music and reflect, perhaps accompanied by some photos.


If our families are holding a service at one of our local crematoriums, then they will have access to thousands of different pieces of music. Of course, some families opt for some live music – perhaps played by a local musician or singer or even a family member.


When Whitney Houston died in 2012, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys both sang at her funeral, while Houston’s own rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’ was played as her coffin was carried out of the church.


Occasionally, somebody might have a piece of music played they’ve written themselves or had created for them. The English composer Henry Purcell wrote a number of funeral pieces including Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, which was composed for Queen Mary II who died on 28 December 1694. Included within this score was Thou knowest, Lord, which was then performed at the composer’s own funeral the following year.


At Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, there were two new works composed for the ceremony by Sir James MacMillan and Judith Weir.


Along with your celebrant, our team can help you with ideas for music which might suit the type of service you are hoping for.




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