Ministers hit out at ‘karaoke funerals’ music box

Organist David Tattersall.
Organist David Tattersall.
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Vicars fear that a new automated music system at the Crematorium will lead to ‘karaoke funerals’.

The recently-installed digital ‘Wesley Music System’ at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium is causing controversy because ministers believe it will remove the personal touch from funeral services.

Families can now choose from thousands of pieces of recorded pop or classical music to send their loved ones on their way – or opt for the traditional organist.

But David Tattersall, who has played the organ at ‘the Crem’ for almost 20 years, said: “One or two vicars have said ‘it’s karaoke funerals’.

“It’s taking the personal side of the funeral away.”

Reverend Graham Maskery, minister for Christ Church, Broadway and Sefton Road URC Church, said: “The clergy would want to support maintaining the best professional response that David provides, not just pressing a button like a karaoke machine.

“He was told last week this machine was being installed on August 1 and it would be available for people to choose whether they use the machine or the organist.

“The other downside is it’s another job for the clergy because someone has to operate the machine.

“It’s another thing we have to think about – the way we minister in that moment of grief and vulnerability.”

A spokeman for Dignity Funerals, owners of Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium, said: “This is a state-of-the-art music system that is used at approximately 50 per cent of crematoria across the UK.

“The fees will remain the same and we will continue to provide an organ for those families that want to choose this service.

“Traditionally, the organists at the crematorium have been self-employed and we will continue to liaise with them on behalf of families and their funeral director.

“This system is used at many crematoria managed by Dignity and in our experience is appreciated by both bereaved families and clergy alike.

“In future it will also allow funerals to be streamed to family members living abroad or unable to attend; provide a facility for showing family photos as part of the service and record the service.”