Music for Remembrance Day

The Origins of Remembrance Day

Two Poppies Remembrance Day (also called Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed by many countries of the world involved in the conflicts of World War I. In 1918 at "the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" the Armistice papers were officially signed to mark the conclusion of the War. From 1919 onwards, Remembrance Day has been observed on 11th November to remember and honour members of the armed forces who have died serving their country. Many services are timed to observe 1 or 2 minutes of silence at 11am, and many places of work also observe some moments of silence at that time as a mark of respect. While key ceremonies take place on the anniversary date of 11th November, other Remembrance Day services take place on the 2nd Sunday in November or "Remembrance Sunday".

British Legion Poppy In subsequent years Remembrance Day has included those killed or injured in WWII and other later conflicts, most recently in Afganistan. The poem "In Flanders Fields" by the Canadian John McCrae became popular during WWI, and it mentioned the poppies growing in Flanders fields. The poppies which formerly grew beside the trenches now grow in and near the cemeteries of France and Belgium. The poppy quickly became the symbol of Remembrance Day and people wear a replica of the flower as an act of remembrance. In official ceremonies around the world wreaths (often consisting of or including poppies) are placed in front of cenotaphs and war memorials in a simple act of remembrance. In the UK on Remembrance Sunday the Queen and other members of the Royal Family place such wreathes before the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, and the ceremony is attended by leading politicians or representatives from across the Commonwealth and by members of the Armed Forces.

To make a donation to the British Poppy Appeal click the "Donate Now" link on the Royal British Legion website.

Music for Remembrance Day (in the UK)

white cross against the blue sky Remembrance Day services are generally held at cenotaphs and war memorials, or in a variety of churchs and halls. In addition to symbolic laying of a wreath at a memorial, the services may include a number of hymns, recitals of poems, and short speeches or sermons. The key music played at or shortly before 11am is "the last post", a Bugle Call historically played at the end of the military day and traditionally at military and ceremonial funerals. This is followed by a period of silence, and then the "rouse" is played, another bugle call which in a military context is a signal for soldiers to get up. The National Anthem and a number of Patriotic Hymns are often played. Below you will find a number of pieces of music which are suitable for Remembrance Day services, but also in most cases for military funerals or the funerals of individuals who have died in conflicts. Depending on the occasion, you may also want to evoke the period of our major wars such as songs popular during WWI some of which can be found in our Music Hall section. All pieces are available as sheet music and also as downloadable midi and mp3 files:

Music for Remembrance Day (in other countries)

Wild Poppy Remembrance Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day is also observed in several other countries on 11th November each year. However there are other events of a similar nature held in various countries, with variations on timing and the format of the occasion. Examples include Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand which is observed on 25th April each year, and Memorial Day in the United States which is held on the last Monday of May. We know less about these events and cannot recommend music with authority, but we suspect that some of the music listed above for UK services may prove suitable in a wide range of circumstances. In addition the following pages contain further selections of music which may help:

Other Music for Remembrance Day

For The Fallen: Music by Edward Elgar and Arnold Bax - album cover Music can have a mysterious yet powerful connection with the emotions, and under the right circumstances it can help people to come to terms with grief and loss. This is the aim of the album entitled "A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning and Consolation" sung unaccompanied by the Gabrieli Consort under their director Paul McCreesh. The album has a wide range of songs, ranging from the Renaissance Period e.g. Orlando Gibbons' "Drop, Drop, Slow Tears" right up to modern times with James MacMillan's "A Child's Prayer" which was written to commemorate the Dunblane massacre of 1996. The album includes several tracks from Herbert Howells' Requiem. The album is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Another album called "For The Fallen" reached No.1 in the UK Classical Music charts in early 2017 and features music by Edward Elgar and Arnold Bax. This album is available from the following links Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

A number of films set during the war years have also used themes and symbols associated with Remembrance Day, and some of these may prove fruitful in suggesting suitable music for Remembrance Day. One piece of film music in particular is the "Hymn for the Fallen" by John Williams. It was composed for "Saving Private Ryan" but is only used in the End Titles of the film. It is one of the most beautiful instrumental hymns. Since this work is covered by copyright we are unable to include it on mfiles, but you can find sheet music for it for piano at these links on Sheet Music Plus and Music Room. The same sites have other arrangements including scores and parts for Bands, and these can be found using the search facility on the respective websites.

There are many large scale works in the classical repertoire which reflect on the horrors of war, and if you were organising a concert on such a grand scale you might want to consider works such as:

Remembrance Day music by Ian Rae

Ian & Morven Rae: Burns, Banks and Braes - album cover We are also pleased to be able to include some suitable songs by Ian Rae. The first two of these are settings of Robert Burns poems for female voice, "Logan Braes" and "Till Jamie Comes Hame". The words of both are quite moving but the melodies originally used by Burns were not vey memorable, so Rae has produced and recorded new music for them which can be downloaded and played from the links below. The sheet music and lyrics for both are also available from Sheetmusicplus.com using the links below, and both songs are included on the album "Burns, Banks and Braes" by Ian and Morven Rae which is available from Play Music, Itunes, Spotify and other download sources (e.g. Amazon.co.uk). The third item below is an original song by Ian Rae called "Shed No Tears for Me". This song is also included on the video produced when he recently visited his grandfather's grave in Ypres, on the 100th anniversary of his death.

Biographical Note

I never met them, but I had two uncles who died during WWII serving in the Royal Air Force. My father was too young to serve during the war but he was called up for National Service after the war, and was a military policeman serving in Germany.

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