Following a very successful Lullaby Project with refugee and migrant mothers at Praxis Community Projects in June, the RPO and Irene Taylor Trust (ITT) continued the roll out of this heart-warming programme with an emotional project with fathers at HMP Wandsworth.
Four ITT and RPO musicians spent two days inside the prison, getting to know the eight participating men and supporting them to write lyrics and melodies expressing the things they’d like to say to their children. The heartfelt nature of the lyrics conveyed a range of emotions on the part of the fathers, including pride in their children, guilt at being away and hope for the future.
The resulting content was sent to an ITT composer, who fleshed out and orchestrated the pieces for small RPO ensemble. A further four RPO musicians then joined the core team in the prison to rehearse, refine and record the lullabies over two days. These recordings will enable the men and their children to keep the songs for life. A final sharing session brought participants’ friends and families to the prison for an emotive performance of the lullabies, featuring the RPO ensemble, mezzo-soprano Annie Gill, with spoken word by the participants themselves.
The project and the experience of being inside the prison had a profound impact on the RPO musicians taking part, with Fraser Gordon, RPO contrabassoonist, saying, “This project was deeply moving as the participants let us into their lives and spoke to us about something extremely personal: their relationship with their children. There was a mutual understanding as both sides gave each other a glimpse of the realities and various aspects of daily life - for us, gaining unique insight into how the prison system works and understanding this segment of the population. It was an extremely rewarding and emotional project to be part of.”
The recording aspect of the project offered a great opportunity to involve the RPO’s longstanding partners from the University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College BA(Hons) Music Production course. Four students and two staff from the University planned, recorded and mixed the final recordings, gaining an insight into the wider work of the orchestra beyond the concert platform, and learning about the intricacies of working in prisons. The students, many of whom are about to embark on their professional recording careers, found the experience insightful and inspiring:
"Recording at Wandsworth was an amazing and unique experience. It was humbling to work with people from different walks of life that have come together over music. We had many audio challenges to overcome but everyone worked really hard and got on fantastically."
Alistair Henty-Blows - day two of the recording. BA (Hons) Music Production Year 3 student.
The Lullaby Project is part of Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections programme and has been brought to the UK for the very first time by Irene Taylor Trust in partnership with the RPO. Following these two summer pilots with migrant women and incarcerated fathers, a Royal College of Music researcher is examining the impacts of the project on the parents, children and musicians taking part. The partners hope to use the results of this research as evidence of the importance of the project, with an aim to secure funding to roll the programme out to more communities in need across England.
The two pilot projects were funded by Arts Council England, Swan Mountain Trust and The Lucille Graham Foundation.