Prison choir set to release EP to raise money for charity

Prisoners at Addiewell are releasing an EP
Prisoners at Addiewell are releasing an EP
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you’ve heard of a captive audience, but what about a choir kept under lock and key?

A project organised by former BBC Young Musician of the Year Shona Brown will see men on the inside helping the homeless, as Addiewell Prison choir releases an EP of tracks raising money for Shelter Scotland.

The Changing Key EP, which also features members of SoundRoutes choirs from Central Scotland, features covers of Movin’ On Up by Primal Scream, a medley of House of the Rising Sun and Amazing Grace, and a version of Behind Blue Eyes by The Who, featuring a prisoner from the West Lothian jail on lead vocals.

Singer and flautist Shona said: “Obviously we couldn’t take the choir out on tour, so we thought that making a recording would be a better way of getting their voices heard and raising money for a good cause.

“Getting the members of the SoundRoutes choirs clearance to get into the prison along with all the recording equipment was no mean feat, but it’s definitely been worth it. There was some apprehension on both sides before the different sets of singers got together, but everybody got on very well.”

Shona, 28, first set up the choir in early 2011, and admits it was difficult to attract members. “It can be hard to get men to join choirs anywhere, but when you’re asking prisoners to come forward and sing it can take a bit of perseverance,” she said.

“Singing isn’t seen as the most macho of pursuits and I think some members did take a bit of ribbing over it. But they really enjoy coming along, so I don’t think it has put them off.”

Michael, who sings lead vocals on Behind Blue Eyes, certainly feels it has been a positive experience, saying: “Singing relaxes me. Recording the CD was one of the top experiences of my life, I might never get this chance again to do something that isn’t only good for me, but also helps such a good charity.”

Fellow prisoner Jamie agrees: “It was an amazing experience. This is not something I expected to do in jail.”

The EP is being launched tonight and the songs are also available to download through iTunes and CD Baby, and can be purchased through Amazon. All proceeds go to Shelter Scotland.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “This project brings together people on very different sides of the track and unites them in a common purpose – singing for pleasure and raising money for charity.”


Some songs the choir could consider covering next time...

Jailhouse Rock: Elvis Presley

The Key, The Secret: Urban Cookie Collective

Folsom Prison Blues: Johnny Cash

Please Release Me: Engelbert Humperdinck

Back on the Chain Gang: The Pretenders

I Want to Break Free: Queen

Jailbreak: Thin Lizzy

I Fought the Law: The Clash

Nowhere to Run: Martha and the Vandellas

• Can you think of any more? Leave a comment below and tell us.