Irish Funeral Songs

What is the best Irish music for a funeral?

 

“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Traditional Irish Blessing

One of the most popular Irish songs played at funerals is “Danny Boy.” What you may not realize, however, is that song is actually titled “Londonderry Air” and their are other lyrics to it, many of which are also popular at funerals. For example, the lyrics titled “Above the Hills of Time the Cross is Gleaming” was played at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral while “I Would Be True” was played at Princess Diana’s funeral.

The Irish Wake is one of the best known funeral traditions associated with Ireland. Today, wakes have often been replaced by viewings at funeral homes. The two are not the same, however. A wake precedes the burial and traditionally takes place in the deceased home or in the home of a close relative. The body of the deceased is often on display, dressed in their best clothes but covered with a shroud from the chest down. Curtains in the house are drawn, except for one window which is left open in the room where the deceased is lying. Mirrors are often covered or turned around so that they are facing the wall.


During this time, family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances visit the house to pay their respects. Children do not usually attend a wake. Men will often visit the wake house at night, and then sit with the body during the night. Most people will attend the wake somewhere between 5pm and 8pm. We have selected quite a few Irish songs and listed them below that can be played during an Irish wake or during the funeral.

There are two ways that you can add Irish music to a funeral or memorial service. The first is to choose traditional Irish songs for your wedding. The second is to play traditional songs, but have them played on Irish instruments or sung by an Irish singer. We will discuss both of these options below.

Irish and Celtic Songs

Quite a few Irish songs that are appropriate for a funeral are available and listed below. We searched high and low for authentic Irish and celtic songs before listing them. A word of warning when choosing Irish songs for a Catholic funeral, not all songs listed will be allowed in a Catholic ceremony. Catholic churches have rules about using secular music. We have labeled a few songs that would be appropriate, but you should check with your local diocese before selecting any music. A good example of this is the song “Danny Boy.”

Irish and Celtic Instruments and Bands

Although some might consider this cheating, using Irish instruments can be a way to include non-Irish music while keeping with the theme. Bagpipes, more specifically uilleann pipes, are often used at Irish weddings. The uilleann pipes bag is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm. The celtic harp is also a favorite for weddings. Other Irish instruments include the fiddle, the Accordion, the flute, the banjo and the guitar.

When looking for Irish musicians, you have a wide range to choose from such as The Irish Tenors, High Kings, Aine Minogue, the Chieftans, Clannah, Celtic Women, or Aine Minogue. Of course, we can not forget modern singers such as Enya, Dolores O’Riordan (from the Cranberries), and Sinead O’Connor. Of course, if you are looking for live music, you can find singers that specialize in Irish music in most larger cities.

Some of the best Irish songs for funerals are listed below. For your convenience, we have compiled the songs in a playlist, making it easy for you to listen to a sample or purchase a song. A detailed list of the songs is provided below the playlist.

Best Songs for Irish Funerals and Memorial Services

  1. “A Stór Mo Chroí” performed by Maura O’Connell
  2. “Amazing Grace” performed on Bag Pipes
  3. “Ar Éireann Ní Neosainn Cé hÍ” performed by The High Kings
  4. “Be Thou My Vision” by John Rutter
  5. “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms” performed on Celtic Harp
  6. “Carrickfergus” performed by Celtic Woman
  7. “Celtic Prayer” performed by Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
  8. “The Clergy’s Lament” performed on Celtic Harp
  9. “Cliffs O Doneen” performed by Daniel O’ Reilly
  10. “Danny Boy” also known as “Londonderry Air” performed by James Wallace
  11. “Dante’s Prayer” performed by Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
  12. “Dawning of The Day” performed by Ronan Tynan
  13. “Fields of Athenry” performed by Paddy Reilly or the Irish Tenors
  14. “Finnigan’s Wake” performed by Brobdingnagian Bards
  15. “Flowers of the Forest” performed on the Bagpipes
  16. “Flowers of the Forest” by Dreamcraft
  17. “For Ireland I’ll not Tell Her Name” performed by Joemy Wilson
  18. “Galway Bay” performed by Dennis Day
  19. “Galway Shawl” performed by Johnny McEvoy
  20. “Going Home” performed on Bagpipes and Celtic Harp
  21. “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” performed by Saint Clement’s Choir
  22. “The Last Rose Of Summer” performed on Celtic Harp
  23. “May The Road Rise To Meet You” performed by Jackopierce
  24. “The Minstrel Boy” performed by Christopher Lynch
  25. “Mist Covered Mountains” performed on Bagpipes
  26. “My Lodgings On the Cold Ground” performed on Bagpipes
  27. “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music” performed on Celtic Harp
  28. “Oft in the Stilly Night” performed by Celtic Thunder
  29. “Paddy McCollough” performed by Brobdingnagian Bards
  30. “The Parting Glass” performed by The High Kings
  31. “Rory Dall’s Sister’s Lament” performed on Celtic Harp
  32. “Seacht NDólás Na Maighdine Muire” (The 7 Sorrows Of Mary) performed by William Coulter & Friends
  33. “Shall My Soul Pass Through Ireland” performed by Sean Dunphy
  34. “Skye Boat Song” performed by John Boswell
  35. “St. Patrick’s Prayer” performed by James Wallace
  36. “Star of County Down” performed by The King’s Singers
  37. “The Wearing of the Green” performed by John McCormack
  38. “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” performed by Phil Regan

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