On Monday 9th September, Sing Inside visited HMP Stafford.
HMP Stafford is an unusual prison for us in that it already has a regularly rehearsing choir based in the prison chaplaincy and led by a prison resident. As such, the workshop participants usually have more experience in singing here than we find elsewhere. This makes Stafford a really exciting place to work, and enables us to challenge participants to take their singing and ensemble skills to the next level.
On this visit we took the theme of water as our starting point, which was appropriate given the miserable weather that day, and sang songs including Wade in the Water, Old Man River and By the rivers of Babylon. We taught the songs for this visit exclusively by ear, without writing down the lyrics to any of the songs. Though initially some participants found this stretch beyond their comfort zone quote challenging, by the time we reached the performance everyone was singing their hearts out. Without having any music or lyrics in front of them, there were no barriers between the performers and audience and the choir was able to express itself more fully.
We performed in a workshop, the sports hall, and in an area for older prisoners, and our performances were well-received throughout. To thank us for our visit, the choir sang two worship songs to the Sing Inside team at the end of the day, which was a moving and memorable experience for our five volunteers.
We find that the participants thrive on having high standards for performance set by the Sing Inside team, and they rise to the challenge on every occasion. While this visit threw some new challenges at the group, they were able to achieve incredible results once they worked together.
We'll be back in HMP Stafford in late October and we're looking forward to seeing what's next for this prison choir.
Jonathan Schranz, head of musical development