December welcomed Sing Inside Oxford’s second ever trip, once again to HMP Woodhill, for a day of Christmas tunes. We were particularly excited that over 20 prisoners had signed up to take part, one of which had previously taken part in our first workshop. Because we are such a new committee, for many of us it was also the first time in a prison.
Considering our early travel time, with a dash of caffeine, Kitkats, and greeting with our singing colleagues for the day, we were ready to get started. Laura tested our coordination and ensemble skills with some of the warm up games, and then we worked on our programme.
The music was picked up really quickly, and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm, particularly for the upbeat tunes like ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and whenever we could harmonise (‘Winter Wonderland’). We balanced this with sentimental favourites like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’.
The breaks and lunchtime were a really valuable time for getting to chat and mingle with the prisoners – we shared our different interests and learnt about each other’s goals for the future. The vegan meal we were served was also delicious – although they assured us that the food is particularly good when they’re doing workshops or projects.
During the afternoon we put the final touches on our performance, making sure everyone was happy with the performance, and then prepared to perform. At the requests of the prisoners, we also sang an arrangement of We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Perhaps the highlight – and our finale – was ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. I think it’s fair to say we didn’t sound like Mariah Carey (we were better, obviously), but, having spent hours singing as fairly large choir by the end of the day, our harmonies were pretty on point.
The staff making up the audience were moved to see the amount of work put in by such a mixed ensemble and, honestly, how much fun it was just to shake up all of our normal schedules – whether that of prison timetables or university studying – to just sing and chat.