‘Choir’ can be a tricky word, loaded with a very particular set of connotations: for some, it might seem overly formal, old-fashioned, high-brow, perhaps slightly impersonal. But, for Robert in his poem below, it is personal relationships and passion that are at the heart of Rye Hill‘s thriving group, ‘Harmony on the Hill’.
For Episode 6 of our ‘Inside Stories’ series, he charts his developing expectations of prison life and describes how choir gives him lasting friendships and a sense of community that brightens time inside, and can “light up a room”!
When I came to prison, I thought of loneliness and stress,
A lack of friendship, compassion and heaps of emptiness.
Who would accept me? Who would want to know?
Who would sit and talk to me – an interest to show?
But on my return to the Hill (of Rye)
A little something caught my eye
‘Harmony on the Hill’, a T-shirt did shout
I wondered to myself what that was all about…
I asked the owner about their attire
They explained to me with passion, such fire,
“Come, sign up – it’s fantastic!”
I was interested to know a little more about it.
With my singing background, both in a band and solo,
I had always wanted to give a choir a go.
Who would be there? Would they be any good?
And would I be welcomed into their brother/sisterhood?
When I went along to the chapel to sing
What would this morning bring?
I entered the gates to this holy place
Music being played, a smile appeared on my face.
I soon settled into the tenor row
Learned my parts and what to know
It sounded slick, in tune and hearty
And everyone so nice, it felt like a party!
What I first thought had now gone
No worries, no stress, I didn’t feel alone;
I have made some friends, some will last,
A chance to sing, forget the past.
The organisers are brilliant – kind and funny
They light up a room, everything goes sunny
Pete with his guitar, Gina singing high
But trying to sing along with her makes us cry!
“I’ve considered myself – your mate*
I’ve considered myself – part of the furniture
I’ve taken to you all so strong
It’s clear – we’re – going to get along”
But joking aside, this feels like a family
A mixture of personalities, we’re like a community
We may squabble and bicker a bit
(what families don’t?)
But what we do, and work on, not only sounds good, it could be, it will be, and is a big HIT!
*You can listen to Harmony on the Hill’s recording of ‘Consider Yourself’ from Oliver Twist here.