Stop All The Clocks Joins the List of Humanist Funeral Songs
W.H. Auden’s poignant grief poem, “Stop All The Clocks” aka “Funeral Blues” has been set to music, by emerging Scots-born singer songwriter, Nemo Shaw. This new song can be heard below.
In an age of secularism, Green, humanist, and even DIY funeral services are all growing in popularity, according to “UK Funerals On-line”, U.S Green company “Treehugger” and other funeral-related organizations. These alternative funeral services are positively described by The British Humanist Association, (BHA) as ‘non-religious’ rather than ‘anti-religious’.
We are findingincreasingly that clients are specifying their favourite songs as part of the prepaid funeral plans that we help to organise at the Prepaid Funeral Plan Review.
“Stop All The Clocks” is proving to be an all-rounder, judging from the initial response, from believers and non-believers alike. It is, however, primarily a valuable addition to the smaller, existing repertoire of funeral songs for humanists, non-believers and atheists. W.H. Auden is regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His poem is incomparable in its raw portrayal of human love and loss. It is not surprising therefore that Vanessa Ashbee, ‘Ceremonies Assistant’ at the BHA, greeted the news of this song with excitement saying, “…very interesting information about the composition.”
“The humanist view of life is progressive and optimistic, in awe of human potential,” says Polly Toynbee, President of the BHA, and a columnist for the ‘The Guardian’ newspaper. The BHA describes the humanist way of life as “striving to live life to the full while adhering to the Golden Rule, with an attitude of tolerance and altruism.”
“Rights, equality and respect are for people, not religions or beliefs. Humanism for me is holding nothing sacred but the human being,” says human rights activist, Maryam Namazie. And what can be more sacred than the profound love shared between two people? Auden’s classic poem manages to express the inexpressible feelings of the loss of a loved one. The award-winning American poet, Kevin Young said “It’s that ability to express a feeling like the one that arrives quickly after the loss of a loved one which poems like Auden’s wield.”
According to the American Humanist Association (AHA), “truth, love and compassion are some of the values talked about at humanist funerals, as the life of the deceased is celebrated in a personal and honest way, without reference to God, the supernatural or the afterlife”. “Stop all the Clocks Song” is a celebration of life, as well as a truthful depiction of grief, and as such, it is perfectly tailored to humanist funerals.
“This works! It’s a great song”, commented Pat McNees of ‘Comfort Dyng’, Maryland, USA. The legendary words of the song are delivered in a soft and delicate timbre that does justice to one of the best love poems ever written.
“The composition is intentionally simple and gentle, to counterbalance the impact of Auden’s powerful lyrics and evocative imagery,” explained Ann Lewiss. She continued: “his uncomplicated musical arrangement leaves space for listeners to feel whatever emotions may arise.”
“Nemo Shaw’s rendition is totally in keeping with what I would imagine. It reminds me of the poem exactly as it was read by John Hannah in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ accent and all. I love it, and I think people will love it, too,” said an enthusiastic Heather Oosthuizen of ‘Funeral Guide’, in South Africa.
Already, a number of people have approached “Songs of Grief and Loss” seeking permission to use the song at funerals and memorial services in different parts of the world. A few have requested the simple, yet artistic, video, as well.
News of this song has received favourable coverage from international publications as well as from funeral organizations and others: “A wonderful addition”, from Heather at ‘Funeral Guide’, S.A; “… I think this song will become very popular, and I will be suggesting it as a possibility to families in the future”, from E. Britt; “We would like to purchase this fantastic song and use it”, from funeral director, Mark Baker in New Zealand.
Timing is all important to the success of a product. Heather Oosthuizen explained why the poem needed to be put to music for a long time: “The words are so moving, and it is a familiar poem which is also associated with great loss. Well chosen music often moves people to tears at funerals, and that is the best thing one can do at funerals.”
Ann Lewiss of ‘Songs of Grief and Loss’ said: “The response has been very positive. It looks like we will need to find a recording company, to efficiently market and distribute this song across the globe.”
To hear the song, visit: www.songsofgriefandloss.org
With thanks to Curtis Brown, Ltd, for granting permission to use
“Stop All The Clocks” by W.H. Auden.
Some people may prefer the well know spoken version below.