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Bagpiper Blog

Playing Bagpipes at a Funeral

Funerals/Memorials

This is one of the most frequent requests I get as a Bagpiper. Some history- most people are not aware that in ancient times some Scots believed that the soul would not ascend to heaven or be released with out a bagpiper present to play. The music would release the soul from the earthly body. Bottom line if you didn’t have a bagpiper at the funeral you were in big trouble.

The bagpipes were considered by the English to be an instrument of war because of their effect on the morale of people who were fighting against the English for freedom from oppression. At some point the bagpipes became closely associated with the troops and this has carried over to servicemen and women in the Police and Fire services as well as all branches of the military.  That is why bagpipes are so common in military funerals. I recently did a Funeral at Riverside Military Cemetery for a highly decorated Marine- this photo shows the honors that were given to this man upon his death:

_MG_2862A person calls wanting a bagpiper to play and honor someone they knew. In some cases that person has very specific ideas and other times they don’t. Let’s over some basics:

  • Bagpipers can play at the Memorial Service or for the Burial at the Final Resting place or for both.
  • Often I am asked to play as guests arrive at the service and at the end of the service.
  • Sometimes I am asked to precede the deceased and pall bearers into the service or more commonly out of the service to the waiting coach.
  • Occasionally I am asked to play at the final resting place as well. I usually lead the procession again and conclude playing so that the graveside service can begin.
  • I am also available to play at the conclusion of the graveside service as well.
  • It is very important that you use a competent bagpiper to play for a Memorial or Funeral. This is not a time to ask your neighbor’s kid to play for his first time. You want a bagpiper that can do the job and honor the deceased in this final dignified farewell.
  • Weather can play havoc with the best laid plans. A competent bagpiper will be able to adjust his tuning and make suggestions on how the best performance can be given. Please listen to him.
  • A good bagpiper will also coordinate with the Clergy and Funeral Director that are present again to bring the greatest honor to the deceased and comfort the family. This bagpiper will work seamlessly behind the scenes to be considerate of those who are grieving.
  • The bagpiper’s fee should be handled by someone not in the immediate family. There is nothing worse for me or the family than to ask a grieving family member for my fee. Always use someone slightly removed from the immediate family. Also pay the Bagpiper when he/she arrives. Get it out of the way.
  • Some bagpipers avoid funerals- they say the are too depressing etc… For me it is always an honor to play for a family and I have had many experiences where the bagpipes bring out the emotion and help people release their grief. I feel that this is very therapeutic for those who have lost a loved one.
  • Tunes that are often played are Amazing Grace, Danny Boy, Going Home, My Home, The Sleeping Tune, and there are many other laments and airs that are appropriate.

 

Again I always believe it is a great honor to play for family and friends at a funeral. I always dress my best and arrive early. Please contact me with any questions or for any Bagpiping services 909-938-6770. Thanks.

 

 

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