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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

November 27, 2009

Organist funeral fees

evelyn @ 4:37 pm

UPDATED 7 JUNE 2019 – Fees: just checking

See also: Organist funeral fees (2), 10 May 2017.

Link to the salaries page of the Scottish Federation of Organists here.

The SFO minimum recommended fee for a funeral is currently £50.  This came into effect in January 2009 and will last for two years from that date. [Update May 2017 – fee is now £61.50] If you look at other details on the salaries page, you’ll see that they are quite complex, and relate chiefly to the Church of Scotland, which pays its organists a salary as a matter of course, wedding and funeral fees being additional.  For the Catholic organist, apart from some few in cathedrals and major churches, the world of contracts, deputy fees and second-job tax forms is very far away indeed.

Best not to take the controversial salary subject any further just now (maybe I will in a later post), but the fact is that ‘the wee lady who plays the organ’ (unpaid) at the RC church is frequently viewed by priest and parish as being in a different class from the ‘real’ organist (salaried) at the C of S up the road.  She is not.  When it comes to weddings and funerals, she is just as much a professional, and should be eligible for a professional fee.

Now I do know that some Catholic organists don’t want ever to be paid for a parish funeral.  That is laudable, but it should be seen to be their own choice.  It doesn’t mean that the fees are not merited, just that they have been waived.  This post, however, is directed at organists who are either not paid at all for funerals, or paid very little, and who would appreciate an appropriate recompense for their professional services. The best way forward here is to try to work with the local undertaker.

Until fairly recently, a priest would usually handle this whole area himself, agreeing the fee with the family, receiving the payment and passing it on to the organist.  A much more satisfactory method for priest, organist and family is to give this job to the undertaker, who does it for every other Christian denomination.  The Liturgy Commission recommends this, and it is being adopted more and more in Catholic parishes.  Some different ways of organising it:

  • The undertaker may have the same organist fee for all the local churches and, with the priest’s agreement, will include the RC church in this arrangement.


  • Priest and undertaker can agree on a rate for priest’s church, which the undertaker then applies each time.  Here the organist should keep an eye on the market, and give the occasional nudge if needed.


  • The undertaker can negotiate the fee on a one-off basis with the organist.  This usually happens when undertaker and/or organist is not local.

Regarding payment amounts, undertakers’ rates can vary, but are usually around the current SFO figure, sometimes exceeding it.  Priests, however, can have wildly-varying ideas of what the parish organist should be paid for a funeral, including zero.  Of course, a family can be in poor circumstances and the priest aware of it; in such a case, most organists wouldn’t want a fee at all.  But in the normal course of things, a priest may just simply not know what should be charged, and would be grateful to be put in the picture.

So the moral is, get your priest to have a word with the local undertaker, and keep your own eye on the SFO rates.  You are performing a professional service, and you deserve to be offered a suitable fee.  And my experience is that in most cases the bereaved family actually want to show their appreciation for your comforting music at their difficult time.



  1. From Evelyn:

    I received the following comment by email from an organist who reads the blog:

    “Although the Good Book says ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ it is my experience that quite a number of people expect a Catholic parish organist to play for funerals without thought of being paid, whether or not they have put themselves out to attend the Requiem Mass or Service.

    It is very difficult to discuss fees with priests. Organists do not like to be regarded as ‘mean’ or ‘money grabbing’ and out of embarrassment we tend to leave it unsaid.

    People who understand how much is involved will know to offer a fee.

    A ‘thank you’ is nice. The worst thing is being totally ignored when you have given up your time.”

    Comment by evelyn — December 3, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    I decided after years (9 to 15 yo) playing for the RCs to move ship to somewhere I was appreciated… ie. CofS. where I had a proper salary for all the hours I was putting in. As a child playing for the RCs I never once received either an Easter egg or a Christmas Selection Box for all my trouble. I never looked back.


    Comment by paul — April 12, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  3. Paul

    I’ve known a couple of people who have made the same move as you, and I don’t blame you. It’s awful when all your hard work is just taken for granted, even more so if you are a youngster. Anyway, your comment has spurred me on to put down some thoughts about organist remuneration. See today’s post.

    Comment by evelyn — April 13, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  4. I am an RC organists, having plaid locally for over 36 years. I have move to several C of E posts and am paid a fee and feel valued.

    However I still play at my local RC church.

    I was recently asked by my RC priest for a baby’s funeral. He told me all the things the family were having, including a horse drawn hearse. He then told me he expected me to play for nothing as it was a sad occasion.

    Initially I agreed, but on reflection I opted not to do it. I am a self employed clarinet teaching and my organists work is part of my ‘bread and butter’. I also felt that because I am a member of te Incorporated Society of Musicians I needed to follow their code of ethics.

    Comment by Monica Evans — November 29, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  5. Monica, thanks for this comment. Sorry I didn’t find it sooner – I think the weather is to blame!

    I’ve had this experience, too – it’s a difficult situation. I’ll look at the question of children’s funerals in a blog post very soon. And we’re also planning to go into the fees question more deeply on the new ‘Playing the Organ’ page.

    Comment by evelyn — December 3, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

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