Once in a while I would arrive at a funeral service to be handed a CD by the funeral director. This meant that the organ would stay locked up and I would be paid an extortionate fee to press ‘play’ and ‘stop’ on a CD player for the afternoon. Score! A steady flow of regular funeral tracks started to emerge and it became increasingly apparent that standard hymns were being snubbed in favour of more contemporary songs such as Robbie Williams’ Angels, Frank Sinatra’s My Way and Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again. Then funeral music started to get a sense of humour with requests such as AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust and as this recent article in The Times reads:
‘We might now hear Prodigy’s Firestarter or Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire played at cremations. Regular funeral favourites now include Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender, and even Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from The Wizard of Oz.’
This was all great fun (and surround-sound bass is fantastic in the acoustics of a church building!) but here’s the rub: anyone can press a button on a CD player and I was starting to miss playing the organ. So in addition to the usual CD player, I offered the option to play the tracks on the church organ. It went down a storm! I was asked to play everything from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell and soon had a massive repertoire of pop/rock pieces.
Quite a few organists sneer at being given anything more contemporary than Buxtehude or Scarlatti, but the pipe organ is well-suited to modern pop/rock. The formula is simple; bass guitar in the pedals, rhythm guitar in the left hand and vocals/lead guitar in the right hand. So why not combine a little My Chemical Romance with your Johann Pachelbel?
Here are some pieces that I am regularly asked to play and some of you who know me may have heard these before, but I’ll be recording more pieces in May/June so any requests/suggestions will be considered!!
Metallica: Nothing Else Matters
Guns N Roses: Sweet Child O Mine
My Chemical Romance: Cancer
I must add that although I cringe each time I hear the opening chords to Robbie William’s Angels, I intend to have Do you realize? by the Flaming Lips played as I am carried off down the aisle (in a wooden box, I might add, not by a groom…God forbid!)