Bagpipes at a Funeral
Music is important part of any funeral service. The bagpipes have been commemorating the loss of loved ones with music at funeral services for hundreds of years. Many people associate bagpipes with funerals and this is because they powerfully touch our deepest emotions; the haunting voice of the bagpipe express feelings that words alone may fail to convey.
When to Use a Piper at the Service
What is the best time to have a piper play? The answer to this question is really a personal choice, but the following are a few suggestions.
The bagpipes can be utilized at any point during the funeral service. Typically the bagpiper will perform at either the Funeral Mass at the chapel or at the Interment at the cemetery, or both.
The piper usually plays before, sometimes during but not often, and after the funeral mass.
Before the Mass
When the funeral procession arrives, the piper takes up a position the rear door of the hearse. When the doors of the hearse open, the piper starts playing and leads the procession into the church.
During the Mass
Some churches do not allow bagpipes to be played inside a church during the mass. If you church will allow it and it is your desire to have the pipes played limit the amount of playing to just one or two tunes. The piper can play at any point during the mass but they often play near the end, after the benediction for example.
After the Mass
The piper plays as the casket is being carried out. The piper may lead the procession out of the church to the hearse. When the back door of the hearse is closed, the piper may continue to play until the hearse leaves and is out of site.
Note: If the piper is accompanying the funeral procession to the Internment, the piper will stop and proceed to the piper’s transportation.
When the funeral procession arrives, the piper takes up a position the rear door of the hearse. When the doors of the hearse open, the piper starts playing and leads the procession into the graveside or into the internment location. Tunes used for this are often retreat marches such as the Green Hills of Tyrol or When the Battles Over. Another popular alternative is to play a favourite tune of the deceased or a tune that was meaningful to the deceased such as a regimental march is they were in the military.
At the conclusion of the service the piper can play a lament or hymn such as Flowers of the Forest or Amazing Grace. Mourners often place flowers on the grave site.
This is something that you will have to work out with each piper. The Piper will already have several sets of music that he or she will know and intend to play. The piper will know a great number of tunes, but be sure to ask if you have a special request. Give the piper a few weeks notice of the request to ensure the piper has ample time to find the music and learn it if required.
There are numerous tunes written specifically for the bagpipe for any occasion. The pipes have a narrow range of nine notes. As a result, most popular tunes cannot be played on this instrument.
Examples of bagpipe tunes:
- Danny Boy
- Going Home
- Flowers of the Forest (military lament)
- The Skye Boat Song
- Dark Island
- Paddy's Green Shamrock Shores
- Flower of Scotland
- The Green Hills of Tyrol
- Scotland the Brave
Please bear in mind that outdoor piping can sound less than optimal when temperatures low. The piper is usually able to compensate, however, special considerations may be warranted to insure a quality standard.
Just like the music selection, pipers have different rates. Several factors may influence the fee:
- Distance. Expect to pay an extra fee for pipers that have to travel longer distances to perform at your function.
- Time. The amount of playing time is another factor. For example, when requesting a piper to play at the ceremony and reception, several hours of time may be needed to be set aside to perform at both.
- Experience and Skill. Expect to pay higher fees for skilled pipers; while the fees are higher you should also receive a higher quality of performance, both musically and visually. Each piper also has his own history and has been learning for many years to be able to perfect their skills enough to play at your special function. Ask what their experience is and ask for references if you feel you need them.