Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Funeral blues

It seems to be one of those topics that comes up in conversation from time to time - what music would you like at your funeral? In a purely hypothetical way, of course - I've no intention of going any time soon. Anyway, funerals are for the living, not the deceased; I shan't be there, and it feels rather controlling to try and lay down how people ought to be thinking about me.

My brother - a minister - tells me it's not uncommon for people to ask for a cremation service to be accompanied by Blaze Away or Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and part of me rather fancies suggesting Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye (except I don't believe "Till we meet once again" would have any reality).

But sententiousness will creep in, so I tend to mull over some favourite classical pieces. When I Am Laid In Earth is just too heart-rending (and in this context, dictatorial - what's to say people won't be saying "About time too" or "Who?"). Bach's Schlummert Ein is gorgeous and comforting (especially when sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson), but is sadly too long.

So for now I think I'll stick with Beim Schlafengehen from Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs (this is a literal translation):

Now the day has wearied me,
My eager longing
Shall accept the starred night
like a weary child.

Hands, leave all work;
Brow, forget all thought;
All my senses
Now seek to sink into sleep.

And the unguarded spirit
Shall soar in free flight
To live in night's magic sphere
Deeply and thousandfold.

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