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Live music at a Memorial?

Yes! Or at a Celebration of Life . . . or any kind of meaningful remembrance. You might think, “Okay – maybe in a church. I’ve seen that.” True, a pipe organ or a church choir may fit the bill beautifully well in a congregational setting.

What happens when the ceremony is outdoors though – in a back yard, local park or special place like the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum or Tucson Botanical Gardens?  These are the types of settings the families with whom I work often choose for their custom ceremonies of remembrance. And live music can work incredibly well. I’ve seen families incorporate live guitar, harp, drums, accordion, bagpipes and vocalists. (Never all at once!)

Folks seem to default to pre-recorded music playing before, during or after ceremonies. With the accessibility of iPod speaker docks and other technology, music can be woven into a ceremony with the help of tech-savvy friends. However, I am writing this post as a huge proponent of musicians performing LIVE music, for three main reasons:

  • Receiving the vibrations of live sound feels cathartic. When you hear and feel live bagpipes, accordion, violin, guitar, drums, cello or acapella human voices – in person – what happens? Most likely, emotions rise to the surface and stir your spirit. Live music can stir the heart and soul with a power greater than spoken word or pre-recorded music.
  • Reflecting on an honoree’s life while hearing a song he or she loved played live is uplifting. Times in our lives and our relationships can be defined by hearing a single song or even a set of powerful lyrics. When music is carefully chosen by kin surrounding the honoree, and performed live, I witness a hard-to-describe ‘tingle’ while connections come alive and people feel uplifted.
  • Sensing a shared response to the music from everyone gathered builds a community experience. I have witnessed mutually recognized tears, nods, laughter and movement – even a standing ovation! – all expressed in response to live music during memorials and celebrations of life.

This is Part One of my wee ‘opinion’ post about live music . . . stay tuned for Part Two where I’ll list resources for live musicians who bring their talents to ceremony spaces in Tucson!

For now, just dream of what it would be like to see have Yo-Yo Ma at a ceremony playing this timeless piece from the Bach Cello Suite:

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