Monday, 5 January 2015

Celine Dion and me - funeral music

The impossibly wealthy and successful Ms Dion is not really my thing, to put it mildly. The whole big voice power ballad overwrought style leaves me cold.

But. Many a British funeral is for, or is organised by, men who don't like to talk much about their feelings. There are often comments about how he loved banter and leg-pulling, how dry his sense of humour was, how his children knew he loved them even though he didn't tell them often. (Or ever....)

That's how these chaps are, or how they were. We celebrants serve them, we don't criticise or judge, I hope. 

Enter Miss Dion (or Houston, or Carey.) Enter Andrea Bocelli duetting with Dion or Brightman. Enter the big throbbing ballad, the singers for whom "I" must be delivered as "HI.."

If pop music is the soundtrack of our lives, these belters are the soundtrack of the grief and the love that Britchaps/chapesses are unable to express.They licence the evoking of powerful feelings in  a reserved and semi-formal context. 

I'd sooner give up red wine than buy a Celine Dion CD, but in this context I say: "Brava, Celine!" Hit it, kid. Not a dry eye in the house - you've done your job. 


  1. Interesting ideas here, GM. Men certainly favour proxies when it comes to expressing emotion - which is possibly why they like Queen very much more than women do. I wondered if there might be an analogy here with road music, so I did a spot of googling and this is what I found about High Road by Broken Bells: "The song isn’t so much about navigating the road, but life, which can sometimes feel strangely similar." #1 in this chap's top 20 is Springsteen singing Born To Run.

    Anything in this, do you think?

  2. I'm more Henry Bourbon than you GM, Red wine is definitely worth a CD CD or two. Spot on with the post, though: the music starts and the floodgates open. I think of big ballads as the sonic equivalent of fast food - designed and manufactured to target the big emotions. But just like a Burger and Fries, sometimes it's just what you need. Can I confess to a sneaking admiration for Bette Midler? Oomph and pizazz in one package. Would you like Celine better if she sang with a finger in her ear (just teasing)?

  3. 'fess up, Vale, it'll make you feel better! Yes, Bette's quite a girl. As for liking Celine if she sang with a finger in her ear - as opposed to both my fingers in my ears - I like her fine as she is, in funerals, and since so far as I know, she has yet to record "The Shoals of Herring," I'll leave her there, helping people feel something potentially transcendent.

    Maybe, Charles, our feelings for music are so complex and varied that my efforts to pin them down to one thing (male proxies for open emotions) in a funeral are simplistic. The idea of music helping us down the road of life (ouch!) via a funeral sounds highly plausible to me. Sometimes funeral songs are just favourite songs, aren't they - other times they are songs people imbue with huge personal significane, and I think Celine D is sometimes one of those. Certainly we've had "The Prayer" at a funeral where the dead person's beliefs, and those of most of his family, wouldn't allow for an actual prayer. It seemed to help.

  4. I agree, GM, ain't no schema that'll tie this down. I've just reminded myself what The Prayer sounds like - and what a marvellous voice Dion has. It's a big occasion tune, so that may be something else to factor in. Vale would possibly add that it is appetisingly swimming in unsaturated fat and all the better for it.

    At the other end of the scale there's the shipping forecast, whose popularity is growing - which bears ironic comparison with that much-played belter from Titanic.

  5. Maybe a little corner outside the Big Mac tunes is growing, thematic things like the shipping forecast, or the theme to "Test Match Special," had that a few times now.

    But in the end, who isn't moved by the human voice at full stretch, or by the sound of human voices in harmony? It's soul music, whether it's Celine D or the trio from act 1 of Cosí. And we choose the ones that resound and resonate for us.

  6. Come one, come all, whether sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. I remember walking in to a serene Bach partita. It was nice not to be stirred and churned. But each to their own.

  7. I wince when I hear her, and Bette Midler. They have this thing about winding up to a note as though someone's turning a handle somewhere, rather than hitting it direct.