Jean Martyn is a concert organist, who also does weddings and funerals. For cremations, she has devised a tasteful little combo, which her website calls the Crem Medley.
It features Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, Josef Locke’s Blaze Away and The Platters’ classic Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Ms Martyn plies her trade in Essex and east London.
She’d better not try it here.
Not at a Catholic ceremony, anyway.
The Catholic Church, in the person of the Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, has called a halt to the “dumbing down” of funerals.
He wants to ban secular music, songs and texts and hopes to confine eulogies by relatives to the house, before the funeral, or the graveside, after the final rite of committal.
I’m with the bishop on this. Funerals don’t have to be sorrowful, or gloomy, but they should be conducted with a bit of dignity.
I recently attended one, at which golf clubs were displayed on the coffin lid. I’ve heard of others where tokens of remembrance, brought to the altar, have included a Liverpool shirt, a miniature rugby ball and the collar of a favourite pet.
At a cremation in Roselawn, I watched the coffin go down to the strains of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.
Roselawn is a secular venue, but the ceremony was not. The deceased was a Methodist. He had a good sense of humour, but I doubt if John Wesley, the founder of his church, would have been amused.
Bishop Smith is not the first Catholic leader who has attempted to restore respect and good taste to the business of burial.
Back in 2003, the Catholic Church in Ireland’s national centre for liturgy issued guidelines designed to curb inappropriate behaviour at funerals.
The centre’s spokesman, Fr Patrick Jones, cited the telling of blue jokes, the display of women’s underwear and an instance where beer was drunk during the eulogy in memory of the deceased. His words fell on stony ground as, I fear, will those of Bishop Smith.
The Catholic Church, like all the main churches in Ireland, has become what the Church of England has been for decades – an instrument of social convenience, where people go to celebrate births, marriages and deaths.
The rite is irrelevant to most folk who look simply for a ceremony that reflects their tastes.
This view was perfectly illustrated by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who hired Charlotte Church, then aged 13, to sing at his wedding to Wendi Deng in 1999.