The most popular funeral song?

Heissler tracker organ at Waiokeola Congregational Church.

A few weeks ago, Waiokeola Church’s organist, Gloria Faltstrom, asked whether I would be available to play a funeral at her church on February 24. The reason was that the family of the deceased had requested “Nimrod” as the postlude. Apparently Gloria had agreed to play the funeral before learning of this request.

“I have spent several weeks trying to learn the music and register the tracker to sound sort of Romantic, and I am not succeeding at either,” she wrote. Apparently the deceased’s wife’s memorial service was held in November, and Gloria was able to decline for lack of time to practice and learn it. Now they wanted it again, for the father’s memorial service. (That poor family, with mother and father passing so close together. I learned from today’s funeral that they were married for over 60 years.)

Heissler console

I agreed and scheduled practice time on the Heissler organ. Two years ago I heard the entire Enigma Variations at the Three Choirs Festival Gloucester and learned for the first time that each of the fourteen movements represented important people in Elgar’s life. The ninth movement, “Nimrod,” represents the ‘mighty hunter’ of the Bible. August Jaeger (German for ‘hunter’) was Elgar’s German-born editor, and his most devoted and understanding musical supporter, according to the program notes. This slow movement was inspired “by a summer evening’s conversation about Beethoven.”

Then last Sunday when the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra paid tribute to principal bassoon, Paul Barrett, “Nimrod” was played as  the opening before the concert with Lang Lang. I  thought it was the most beautiful and poignant rendition of the piece I’ve ever heard.

If you are a Facebook user, here is a live Facebook video with the tribute to Paul: .

And here is a stunning and gorgeous choral transcription of this piece, which “will have you weeping in seconds,” according to ClassicFM of the performance by Voces8. They have used the words to the Requiem mass: Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Thy saints forever, for Thou art kind. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

According to Co-operative Funeralcare, “Nimrod” is the number one most requested classical piece for funerals. Click here for the names of other pieces in the Top Ten.

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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