Sounding Out, Day 3: “Of course we can make it work!”

MiP’s Artistic Director, Sara Lee, gives us the inside view on day 3 of Sounding Out.

The band has found its routine now; people are arriving in the same order, bikes stored under the church stairs, kettle on. At 10am, Eileen walked up to the mic to give us the first hint of the song she had started to write with a reggae vibe, which was immediately taken up by Fudge and Valter. Within very little time the structure was in place and the other verses had been written. Eileen had conceived a drum n bass section at the end of the tune – a massive shift in style and tempo, but the band was keen to take it on; “it’s MiP, of course we can make it work!” Eileen said. Make it work we did, and a rather quirky genre mash-up was born. It’ll definitely catch on.

All the instruments are vying for space in the Browning Room, with cellos next to singers and vocoders next to clarinets. I’ve spent most of the week on a keyboard facing all the vocalists and have been staggered to see the difference in the body language and confidence of the 4 vocalists. On the first day the nerves were showing, but now there are 4 confident, creative musicians, each geeing each other on with encouragement and reassurance. They make a really strong team.

Sharleen was next to unveil a song to the band, something she introduced as “it’s not finished and I haven’t structured the lyrics yet”; cue a stunning rendition of a verse and a chorus which left the whole of the band open mouthed. It took very little time to hone it; other members of the band threw in ideas for orchestration and suggestions for harmonies in the chorus. Unbelievably, the band had created 2 new songs in the space of 3 hours, so was ahead of schedule – leaving time in the afternoon to work on the final song of the set, inspired by the band’s drummer Selwyn.

Selwyn’s up-tempo riff was jumped upon by the vocalists; Fudge suggested the concept for the song lyric and within half an hour he and Valter had written verses and Eileen and Sharleen had written the chorus. Lee decided that he would leave the bass part to Joe for this track and that he would move on to the congas – at which point the band was treated to another of Lee’s talents as he grooved away in the background. We rehearsed it a few times, re-orchestrated the start and the finish, then sat down.

“So how many is that then?” asked Valter, “is it 6? SIX?! We’ve done 6 songs in only 3 days?!”

As it dawned on the band that we had got much further than we predicted in the time available, the excitement peaked and there was a massive cheer and high fives for everyone’s efforts.  The conversation quickly changed to ‘famous people we have seen normal places’, as it so often does.

Lunchtime was spent on tables out of the front of the church, with members of the band striking up conversations about football, famous bass guitarists and what it was like to go to music college. It’s great to see the new friendships that have been forged and how quickly the band has gelled both in and out of the rehearsal room.

The project team discussed how wonderful it is to see people we first met in vastly different surroundings outside now, working in the same creative way as we did inside, but without the constraints of prison. Somehow it has enhanced the creativity, the barriers are down and the music has benefitted massively. One of the best things is that we have a mixed band, something we have obviously not worked with inside: having both male and female voices is such a plus, as exciting harmonies become possible and songs can be ‘acted out’ and become totally believable.

Thursday is going to be very exciting as we recap and refine each song ready to record on Friday. Having a whole day to do this will be great; there are a couple of visitors coming in tomorrow to listen to what we have written, so that could be a mini dress rehearsal for our show on July 5th



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