Sunday, 6 December 2009

Funeral music [update]

Yesterday I helped give Anna Woolf what I thought was a pretty good send-off. ‘Twas great to see so many of you there to help remember her.

Today I’m listening to music, and otherwise being very unproductive. More on that music later, but first, here’s part of what I said yesterday:

Anna’s Mum said to me on Wednesday, “Anna was always the master of the last word.” But not this time. Not this time.

Anna Woolf died Wednesday, at 12:05pm.

She left us.

We’ll remember her. We’ll remember all the arguments we had with her. And all the good times. All the times she told us off. All the times that she was right. The rare times she was wrong. We’ll remember all her dreams, all her plans – all of them cut short by a bloody cancer.

We’ll remember her sense of fun—and her seriousness when she got down to business. For her friendship and her generosity. For her passion and her sense of justice. For her little giggle, and her louder shouts of anger.

As Mary Ann Sures said of Ayn Rand's death, "now anger has gone out of the world. And it's the world's loss, and mine."

And so it is now.

And since so many of you have mentioned her anger, let me paraphrase something someone else once said about Ayn Rand’s anger.

The problem is that talking only of her anger connotes irrationality and emotionalism. But talking about her anger isn’t talking about what caused it. Why did she loathe some people? Why was she so quick to denounce those she opposed? Because she was a valuer. . . When someone said something that was not true, she made an immediate valuation that it was bad, and values are the cause of emotions. Strong values cause strong emotions.

Above all, Anna was a valuer. She lived her values, and loved those who did too – people who brought their values into reality.

Anna was a woman who never faked reality. She just wasn’t made that way. She faced it all straight on: as the master of her fate, and the captain of her soul.

And that, I think, is what so many of us here loved so much about her.

She had more real integrity than almost anyone I’ve ever met. And I loved her for it.

Goodbye Anna.

I look forward to joining up with friends and family every year on December 2nd at 12:05pm to help finish off your bucket list.

Here’s the music Lindsay Perigo sent along to help us send off our fallen heroine – a seventeenth century German nuptial song sung by Fritz Wunderlich (which, sadly, we couldn’t squeeze in yesterday, but we sure as hell can here):

The poem, by the way, was translated by H. W. Longfellow as ‘Annie of Tharaw

Helping organise the music for Anna’s funeral, based on her own requests, made me think about what music I might have at my own funeral – which as it happens I’ve been listening to today.

Surprise, surprise: here’s 'Siegfried’s Funeral March' by Wagner – my choice to accompany my own journey into Valhalla—or at least my coffin’s journey into the room. (Make sure you turn it up to eleven to enjoy it as Wagner intended.)


Here’s what I’d have for sitting still and listening to before all the eulogies—a young man singing about his love of life just moments before his execution:


And I’ve been listening to this again today: the poetry and process of grief, set to music : the ten core songs from Lou Reed’s 1991 ‘Magic & Loss’ album. (Forgive him for the white suit and mullet.) The first clip tells you the story.  I think the last clip is the one I’d have played while everyone sat still after all the speeches-the song ‘Magic and Loss.’

I can just imagine Anna making the little joke Lou talks about in Track 7, ‘Goodbye Mass.’

Pull up a pew for forty minutes or so—it’s not intended to be background music—and experience some musical catharsis.

And finally, here’s the sort of number I’d like to be carried out to:  Duke Ellington’s ‘Daybreak Express’ – done somewhat unusually here with model trains!


So there’s my pieces for my funeral, or something like it.

What would you have at yours?

UPDATE: By the way, I’ve posted Anna’s funeral music and some pictures as an update over at her Last Post, and I’ll be gradually posting all the eulogies as I can find them.


  1. 'Across the Universe' by John Lennon, but I didn't know that liberals ever die

  2. What a great post.

    One of mine would be 'Here Comes the Hotstepper' by Ini Kamoze. Thoroughly inapproriate and with absolutely no meaning (apart from the fact that it would just make the people who knew me laugh their arses off because it was so,um, inappropriate).

  3. I would have played this music, when the pallbearers start carrying the coffin on the way out to the hearse. This is the most important part of a funeral service, since people will try and attach emotional feelings (or connect) to the the dead. This music will definitely do it and some will even cry.

    Forget about the origin of the music itself, the tune is what stirs people's emotions, if not, then one could simply play a Michael Jackson's song (Black-or-white, thriller or something like that) and all attendees would start popping and performing break dance while the coffin is being carried out to the hearse.

    Funeral service is for the living, ie, the people who attended the service, because when we die, our dead bodies are not us anymore. A service that can manage to get people to show their emotions (usually with appropriate music can do this), perhaps with a bit of tears, the family of the dead can feel that the crowd feels their pain, and they would be more appreciative that everyone is feeling what they go through.

  4. Falafulu Fisi

    "Funeral service is for the living."

    I've long told mine they can do what they like. Whatever makes them feel better. I won't be there.

  5. "I've long told mine they can do what they like. . . I won't be there."

    Yeah, Anna said that too.

  6. The hymn , Till We Meet Again was played by the Auckland Tongan Methodist brass band at my mother's funeral , which is quite a moving song. Till We Meet Again, was one of the many hymns that they played including, the popular Abide With Me quoted in my message above. I frequently sing this song (the Tongan version) in a baritone voice (in harmony with other vocals), when I have drinks with my mates.

    I sang this with my mates at the last Castle Christmas Carols party (about 3 years ago), in which Peter S, was on the piano and definitely Anna Woolf loved it (I assume), since she came out (from PC's lounge) to watch us singing it (Tongan version). She didn't know it was a hymn that we sang, but definitely the beautiful tune attracted her to come out, while PC and the rest of the Libz crew (except Susan Ryder who participated in the singing), were chatting & having Martini's inside and just enjoyed listening to the singing and generally the occasion itself.

    Here are 2 very beautiful versions of this song at YouTube.

    #1) Till We Meet Again by Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

    #2) Till We Meet Again by a home made video, from an all women quartet.

    The women quartet is absolutely beautiful, just watch it. The harmony in that quartet is what one would see me singing with my mates.

  7. Mmmm.I'm with Lindsay on this one. I would prefer "When you're Happy and You Know It" to be played at mine with everyone wearing party hats, streamers, lots of Fanta - the works. Then at the appropriate moment in the song, having been rigged up by animatronics, the coffin opens and I pop up and clap!

    Why make it a sad occasion? I won't be sad. Just dead. :-)


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