A funeral singing agency is the ‘only agency of its kind within the UK’, according creators Briony Rawle and Penelope Shipley.
The company is responding to what they believe is a nationwide shift from traditional funerals to personalised celebrations of life.
Briony Rawle and Penelope Shipley’s new agency The London Funeral Singers is ready to cater for it.
“People are starting to realise they don’t have to follow the rules anymore,” says Rawle. “They’re having funerals where everyone wears bright colours, or even fancy dress, and the rulebook’s out the window. Funerals can be special and personal, and music is a huge part of that.”
Shipley recounts the pair’s own experience of this change: “We’ve had a funeral where the family wanted five Eva Cassidy songs even though the service itself was only half an hour long! Other clients have had everything from Christina Perri to Perry Como; of course we enjoy the traditional songs too but we love the variety.”
Rawle adds, “At one Catholic funeral, the church couldn’t allow secular songs inside the building, but that didn’t stop our client asking our singer to stand just outside the doors and sing into the church.”
Rawle and Shipley are both trained actor/singers, and before founding the company they found it difficult to keep their heads above water in the rising wave of the ‘gig economy’.
“Making a living as a performer at the moment is very tough,” says Rawle. “There are far more female performers than male, and many more parts for men than for women. The arts industry is saturated and getting paid properly is rarely a given. We were both making ends meet by picking up casual work and often thought about quitting the arts.”
“I had been asked to sing at weddings and funerals many times for family and friends, and had thought about setting up an agency. The wedding industry is very overcrowded but no-one is catering for funerals in the same way.”