Blog March 19th St Paul – Part One

In Times of Trouble featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album ” I Look Up To the Heavens” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson

Apart from last week when this blog centred on my mum’s testimony I had been looking at the life of St Peter who is the central figure in the first part of the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles. The second half centres on St Paul who was first called Saul.
In Mustard Seed Songs’ sequel to Risen! The Musical – Acts- The Musical – the second act also centres on Saul/Paul.
So one obvious question is why did Saul’s name change to Paul. I did a bit of research and found:

It has been popularly assumed that Saul’s name was changed when he became a follower of Jesus Christ, but that is not the case. His Jewish name was “Saul” (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Modern: Sha’ûl, Tiberian: Šāʼûl), perhaps after the biblical King Saul,] a fellow Benjamite and the first king of Israel. According to the Book of Acts, he was a Roman citizen.] As a Roman citizen, he also bore the Latin name of “Paul” (essentially a Latin transliteration of Saul)—in biblical Greek: Παῦλος (Paulos) and in Latin: Paulus. It was typical for the Jews of that time to have two names: one Hebrew, the other Latin or Greek.
Jesus called him “Saul, Saul” in “the Hebrew tongue” in the book of Acts, when he had the vision which led to his conversion on the Road to Damascus. Later, in a vision to Ananias of Damascus, “the Lord” referred to him as “Saul, of Tarsus”. When Ananias came to restore his sight, he called him “Brother Saul”.
In Acts 13:9, Saul is called “Paul” for the first time on the island of Cyprus—much later than the time of his conversion. The author (Luke) indicates that the names were interchangeable: “Saul, who also is called Paul.” He thereafter refers to him as Paul, apparently Paul’s preference since he is called Paul in all other Bible books where he is mentioned, including those that he authored. Adopting his Roman name was typical of Paul’s missionary style. His method was to put people at their ease and to approach them with his message in a language and style to which they could relate, as in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23.
I do, of course fully appreciate the tremendously difficult times that the whole world is, at present facing. I therefore trust today’s featured song “In Times of Trouble” is appropriate
Also instead of the weekly quote here is a prayer:
Dear God
I pray for healing for all those infected by this deadly virus. Only You can move in a mighty way and do the impossible for them. We pray for all negative outcomes to be resolved by Your healing hands. Bless and cover each and every single person and bring complete healing to their bodies from the top of their heads to the soles of their feet.
Michelle Brown- Kings Church, Southsea

Blog 12th March Audrey Lilian Shearsmith

“Precious” CD front cover

ken's mum photo
Ken’s mum on her 102nd birthday

“Precious” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from album “Precious” – in thanks for the life of Ken’s mum – Audrey Lillian Shearsmith

Here is the amazing story of my mum becoming a Christian- it would have been her birthday on Sunday, March 8th.
My mum, Audrey Lillian Shearsmith, had attended Chapel as young girl and I knew that she said her prayers without fail every single day. However in 1997 I still was not sure how she would react to me telling her that I had become a Christian. I therefore showed her a little book from the Alpha course entitled “Why Jesus?” and we had a short chat before she told me to leave it and that she would read it later.
When she was 102 years old and was living in the wonderful Chesterholm Lodge Care Home mum asked me what a Christian was and how you could became one. I simply said that to become a Christian you ask God to forgive you for all the things you have done in your life that have displeased Him and to ask Jesus to come into your life. She then smiled her special smile and pointed to her bag and nodded for me to look in it. And there it was -the “Why Jesus? book that I had given her five years before. I told her that there was a prayer in the book that she could say if you wished to become a Christian. Mum immediately read out the prayer aloud. I was sitting on the bed beside her overjoyed, but at the same time almost not believing what was happening, in fact so much so that I told her that just saying the prayer was not enough she had to really mean it; so she said it again, but this time with even more meaning in her voice! I noticed, Mandy, one of her Carers who worships at my church was outside mum’s room, so I went out to tell her the good news. “Halleluiah” Mandy cried out before telling me that she was not in the least bit surprised because mum had been talking about Christianity for some time. So mum became a Christian at the age of almost 103!
A few days before she died in August 2006 I was with her on my own. She looked at me with so much love, smiled that wonderful smile again and told me that I was precious.
The day after she said “precious” to me I was looking at Psalm 116 and the word “precious” jumped out of the page. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” I read in the concordance that “precious” means, not only highly valued, but also carefully looked after – I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to know that in mum’s last days she was being carefully looked after by God. And she was; all those who were with her will testify to how much at peace she was. She was in no pain whatsoever and was as sharp as always. She left this life in a very gentle and serene way – there is no doubt that she was indeed being carefully looked after and watched over by God.
The day after reading Psalm 116 it was a Sunday and I sat at the back of Holy Rood church with no one on the one seat beside me. Beryl, a retired Curate, came in, which was a bit of a surprise because normally on a Sunday morning she worships at an associate church; coming to Holy Rood for the evening services. Although we are good friends I had not sat with Beryl before, but on that Sunday she asked if she could sit on that one free seat by my side. She knew that my mum was very unwell from the church notice sheet and when she asked me I told her that mum was, in fact dying.
At the end of the service Beryl told me that she had prayed for my mum and me and that during the service God had given her a picture. She had seen a beautiful meadow in which stood a rock- a rock that had been very “precious” to her friends and family. The rock was also “precious” to God. Beryl saw the earth around the rock become disturbed and God taking this “precious” rock up to heaven to be with Him.
Mum died the very next day.
Beryl led mum’s thanksgiving service.
Quote of the week
Don’t worry, everything will turn out for the best
Audrey Lilian Shearsmith

Blog March 5th St Peter – Part Two

St Peter’s, Rome

How Can I Love You More? from the album Risen!- The Musical featuring The Original Cast recorded and produced by Joffy Girling

As I explained two weeks ago Mustard Seed Songs are, at present, recording the sequel to Risen! The Musical. It is based on the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles and has a working title of Acts- The Musical. Recently Joffy Girling, our Musical Director and West End actor, Alex Knox finished recording the guide vocals to part two of the musical.
Writing the script for part one was relatively simple as so much happens in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, including the Holy Spirt coming on the Day of Pentecost, the martyrdom of Stephen and the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. The later chapters focus on the missionary journeys of Saul (now called Paul) which took me some time to work out how to summarise.
If the main character in the second half of the Acts of the Apostles is Paul then it is Peter who is the main character of the first half.
Here are some more interesting facts on St Peter:
Peter is often depicted in the gospels as spokesman of all the Apostles. John Vidmar, a Catholic scholar, writes: “Catholic scholars agree that Peter had an authority that superseded that of the other apostles. Peter is their spokesman at several events, he conducts the election of Matthias, his opinion in the debate over converting Gentiles was crucial, etc.
Luke the author of the Acts of the Apostles portrays Peter as the central figure within the early Christian community.
Early Church Tradition says that Peter probably died by crucifixion (with arms outstretched) at the time of the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64. This took place three months after the disastrous fire that destroyed Rome for which the emperor (Nero) wished to blame the Christians. Traditionally, Roman authorities sentenced him to death by crucifixion. In accordance with the apocryphal Acts of Peter, he was crucified head down Tradition also locates his burial place where the Basilica of Saint Peter was later built, directly beneath the Basilica’s high altar.
Catholic tradition holds that Peter’s inverted crucifixion occurred in the gardens of Nero, with the burial in Saint Peter’s tomb nearby.
According to Jerome, in his work De Viris Illustribus (A.D. 392), Peter was buried at Rome in the Vatican near the triumphal way where he is venerated by the whole world.
In the early 4th century, the Emperor Constantine I decided to honour Peter with a large basilica. Because the precise location of Peter’s burial was so firmly fixed in the belief of the Christians of Rome, the church to house the basilica had to be erected on a site that was not convenient to construction. The slope of the Vatican Hill had to be excavated, even though the church could much more easily have been built on level ground only slightly to the south. There were also moral and legal issues, such as demolishing a cemetery to make room for the building. The focal point of the Basilica, both in its original form and in its later complete reconstruction, is the altar located over what is said to be the point of Peter’s burial.

Quote of the week
Helping one person may not change the world but it may change the world for one person

Blog February 27th “23 years a Christian”

We Can Do Anything featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Precious recorded and produced by Ross Gill

So Saturday 22nd February was the 23rd anniversary of me becoming a Christian. Next week I’ll write more of St Peter but today I want to share my blog of April 10th 2014 in which I described the actual day.
After my uncertain first night on an “Alpha Course” at Holy Rood Church, Stubbington I came back the following week and then the next and the next. I began to think that I wanted to become a Christian – I felt reassured by the words in John’s Gospel, Chapter 3 verse 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” Eternal Life – that is what I needed to take away my fear of death. Not something to be earned but something to be accepted as a gift. Perfect – apart from two problems 1) did I have enough faith to accept Jesus” gift” with any degree of sincerity? 2) If I did ask Jesus into my life what would my mates say- how much ridicule would I have to endure? Let me have a look at problem no 2 first.
Three of my very special friends are Barry Stares, Dave Conchie and Ian Beacham. Barry I have known since Junior School and Dave and Ian since PE College. We regularly meet for a drink and something to eat (yes curry) At one curry Ian said “You will never guess what’s happened to Mick” He was referring to another ex-PE College friend, Mick Mellows who played football for Pompey and who is now a Director of the charity Faith and Football . I thought Ian meant that Mick had been struck down with some horrible illness but no that is not what he meant at all. He continued “He’s only gone and become a Christian!” To which Dave replied “No – and he was such a good bloke!”
Could I face that sort of comment if I “admitted” to becoming a Christian? I really doubted it.
As for problem no 1 re did I have enough faith? – Well thankfully someone told me I only had to have faith as small as a mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds in Biblical times.) I simply had to focus on what I believed not on what I did not – I simply had to trust – I simply had to take a “leap of faith”
During the Alpha course I had been given a little red book entitled “Why Jesus?” (as featured in pic) At the end of the book there is a prayer so I knew an opportunity was coming up for me to take that leap of faith and to say this prayer asking Jesus to come into my life. I felt it really difficult to sleep with my two “problems” constantly churning around inside my head. The weekend came when I knew I had to make a decision – as part of the Alpha Course I was at the Holy Rood Vicarage with the Vicar, Michael Christian- Edwards and his lovely wife Merlyn. When the others in my group were having a coffee break I escaped into the village to go through in my head what I was going to do. On my return sure enough Michael gave everyone the opportunity to say a prayer asking Jesus to forgive us for all the things we had done wrong – to ask Him to come into our lives- and for us to be filled with His Holy Spirit. I remember asking Michael if I could say the prayer twice. He seemed surprised but said that was fine and so that lunchtime on Saturday, February 22nd 1997 I asked Jesus into my life and became a Christian.
Why did I want to say the prayer twice? Well there was Mr Mill and his dad that I also wanted to be there on such a momentous occasion. So that evening in Mr Mil’s apartment in Titchfield I sat between the two of them confessing out loud all the things I had done wrong and again asking Jesus into my life. Some of the things I had done wrong were pretty big – one had been a real burden for many years but after I had confessed it the burden lifted- I know that sounds amazing and too good to be true but amazing is what it was and too good not to be true!
So I thought “micky taking” here you come, but I decided to be pro-active and tell people before they found out through the grapevine. First off was Barry who I had known the longest -he was surprisingly supportive – so too was Ian – but I could not tell Dave, it was Dave who had made the comment about Mick Mellows – he was sure to let me have it with both barrels. A couple of months later Barry and Ian told me that Dave was really upset with me for not telling him. So I took Dave out for a curry (of course) and felt pretty emotional when Dave told me that he loved me (in a bloke way!!) and that he would always support me in anything I did and that he was upset because it seemed that I did not believe I could trust him. So big apology from me and really all the worries about people “taking the mick” turned out to be groundless- mind you I think my two sons James and Chris took a bit of stick at school.
So did my fears of dying die (sorry) If I am honest not entirely – but I did have God’s promise to hold on to and you can’t have much more than that. In fact later I wrote a song called “It’s From the Lord” which is on our CD “Heart and Soul” – the last verse of which is “When your time on earth is ending and you look up to Him on high and your see His promises sparkling spelt out in stars across the sky and open arms reach to embrace you to welcome you home then you know, yes you know it is the Lord.”
So guess who rang me on Sunday to congratulate me on my “birthday?” Yes the very lovely and loving Michael and Merilyn Christian- Edwards
Quote of the week
It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability that counts.
Corrie Ten Boom

Blog February 20th St Peter Part One

St Peter

Gasp in Wonder featuring Lucy Stimpson – Maynard from the album “The Season of Singing” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

As I have previously explained Mustard Seed Songs are, at present, recording the sequel to Risen! The Musical. It is based on the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles and has a working title of Acts- The Musical. Recently Joffy Girling, our Musical Director and West End actor, Alex Knox finished recording the guide vocals to part two of the musical.
Writing the script for part one was relatively simple as so much happens in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, including the Holy Spirt coming on the Day of Pentecost, the martyrdom of Stephen and the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. The later chapters focus on the missionary journeys of Saul (now called Paul) which took me some time to work out how to summarise.
If the main character in the second half of the Acts of the Apostles is Paul then it is Peter who is the main character of the first half.
Here are some interesting facts on St Peter:
Peter was a fisherman in Bethsaida (John 1:44). He was named Simon, son of Jonah or John. The three Synoptic Gospels recount how Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus at their home in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14–17, Mark 1:29–31, Luke 4:38); this passage clearly depicts Peter as being married. 1 Corinthians 9:5 has also been taken to imply that he was married
In the Synoptic Gospels, Peter (then Simon) was a fisherman along with his brother, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. The Gospel of John also depicts Peter fishing, even after the resurrection of Jesus, in the story of the Catch of 153 fish. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus called Simon and his brother Andrew to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18–19, Mark 1:16–17).
In Luke, Simon Peter owns the boat that Jesus uses to preach to the multitudes who were pressing on him at the shore of Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:3). Jesus then amazes Simon and his companions James and John (Andrew is not mentioned) by telling them to lower their nets, whereupon they catch a huge number of fish. Immediately after this, they follow him (Luke 5:4–11). The Gospel of John gives a comparable account of “The First Disciples” (John 1:35–42). In John, the readers are told that it was two disciples of John the Baptist (Andrew and an unnamed disciple) who heard John the Baptist announce Jesus as the “Lamb of God” and then followed Jesus. Andrew then went to his brother Simon, saying, “We have found the Messiah”, and then brought Simon to Jesus.
Three of the four gospels – Matthew, Mark and John – recount the story of Jesus walking on water. Matthew additionally describes Peter walking on water for a moment but beginning to sink when his faith wavers (Matthew 14:28–31).
At the beginning of the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Peter initially refused to let Jesus wash his feet, but when Jesus threatened him with: “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”, Peter replied: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:2–11). The washing of feet is often repeated in the service of worship on Maundy Thursday by some Christian denominations.
The three Synoptic Gospels all mention that, when Jesus was arrested, one of his companions cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest of Israel (Matthew 26:51, Mark 14:47, Luke 22:50). The Gospel of John also includes this event and names Peter as the swordsman and Malchus as the victim (John 18:10). Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and miraculously healed it (Luke 22:49–51). This healing of the servant’s ear is the last of the 37 miracles attributed to Jesus in the Bible.
More next week ….
Quote of the week
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom

Blog February 13th St Valentine

Love is the Way featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album Love is the Way recorded and produced by Bob Ross

As tomorrow is St Valentine’s Day I thought I would do a bit of research and discovered from “” that:

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Still others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
As well as being the patron saint of lovers St Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy,
Chaucer may have invented Valentine’s Day. The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day–an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.
Quote of the week
A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another
Jesus of Nazareth

Blog February 6th – A Mustard Seed of Faith



I know I have previously posted this video of the Portsmouth Gospel Choir singing “A Mustard Seed of Faith” however there are a few reasons why I have decided to post it again.
First because “A Mustard Seed of Faith” is the favourite song of my dear friend Patrick Okoi who is the Pastor of the “Risen Christ Central Chapel “ (RCCC) in Southern Nigeria, the construction of which for the past three years Mustard Seed Songs has been funding. At the end of the video you can see how the Chapel build has gradually progressed. One of the two featured photos shows how lovely the inside is now looking – and it will look even better when the painting, which is taking place right now, is finished. The other photo shows the soak away that has been built ready to install toilets when we raise the money through our Just Giving campaign
Second yesterday our MD, Joffy Girling and West End actor, Alex Knox completed the guide vocals to “Acts The Musical” which is our sequel to “Risen! The Musical.” One method I have used to write, what is another two hour musical, is to incorporate new songs with those God had earlier inspired me to write – some previously recorded and some previously recorded but now re worked – as is the case with “A Mustard Seed of Faith.”
In “Acts- The Musical” Theophilus asks Luke if he believed Paul when he said all on board the ship bound for Rome would survive a shipwreck, landing safely on the island of Malta. Here is the relevant extract:

Luke: spoken

So the ship hits a sand bank and runs aground. Julius the Centurion orders those who can swim to jump overboard and get to land. The rest are to make it there on planks or pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reaches land safely. We find that the island is called Malta. The islanders show us unusual kindness. The chief official welcomes us into his home and Paul heals his father of dysentery. Afterwards the rest of the sick come and are cured. They honour us in many ways and we stay for three wonderfully blessed months before putting out to sea again for Rome.
Theophilus: spoken
Forgive me for asking Luke but …
Theophilus: Sung

When you were caught in that raging storm,
Tossed and turned by the waves,
Did you believe that you,
And all on board would be saved?

Yes it’s true I had lost all strength,
But I just clung onto this,
The power that hung the stars in place,
Is in God’s fingertips.

I remembered all He had done,
All the trials He’d carried me through,
And hand on heart yes I did believe,
The Angel’s promise to Paul was true.

I believe with a mustard seed of faith,
A mustard seed, just a mustard seed of faith,
I believe with a mustard seed of faith,
Mountains can be thrown into the sea

When the road you’re walking down,
Leads to a mountain high,
Far too high to climb over,
Too wide for you to pass by,

And that road is your walk with God,
That mountain some adversity,
Remember you can overcome
Go toss that mountain into the sea,

All you need is a mustard seed of faith,
A mustard seed, just a mustard seed of faith,
All you need all you need is a mustard seed of faith,
Then nothing is impossible.

All you need is a mustard seed of faith,
A mustard seed, just a mustard seed of faith,
All you need all you need is a mustard seed of faith,
Then nothing is impossible.

Quote of the week
Stop worrying about what you aren’t and start being happy about who you are.
John Hagee

Blog January 30th Christopher Wickland Part Two

His story featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Back on December 12th of last year I wrote in this blog that Chris Wickland, the Senior Pastor at The Living Word Church, Fareham had been resuscitated after having been clinically dead for 15 minutes. I explained that Chris is a very good friend and a highly talented musician who played guitar in the “Mustard Seed Soul Band” which performed in Mustard Seeds’ first musical- “His Story” at the Kings Theatre, Southsea and Central Hall, Westminster London. (Title song is today’s featured track)
So it would appear that my blog initiated nationwide interest with articles following that described the event as a miracle- articles first in the Premier News, then national newspapers and more recently BBC’s South Today (I wonder if I should expect a fee ?) Only joking but it is great that the BBC were prepared to broadcast the true Christian faith of Chris and his family with the word “miracle” used on more than one occasion.
So it’s a brief blog text this week – so as to give you time to watch the video.
Quote of the week
I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
Jesus of Nazareth

Blog January 23rd Roberta Firmino

It’s From The Lord featuring Jassica Castillo – Burley and the Mustard Soul Band from the album ” Heart and Soul” recorded and produced by Ross Gill

As regular readers of this blog will probably know I am a Manchester United fan and have been ever since the Munich air disaster. Liverpool are traditionally Man U’s greatest rivals, however since Man City have come to the fore they, for me have now taken over that coveted position. Liverpool, in fact I quite admire – Jurgen Klopp is not only a great manager but he is also humorous and a practising Christian to boot (excuse the pun) I was therefore delighted to read the below which appeared on one of our webmaster’s Facebook posts. It comes from an article in Premier Christian News.
Footballer Roberto Firmino was baptised on Wednesday. The Liverpool forward shared a video of the ceremony on his Instagram page. While standing in a swimming pool, he said: “Jesus is love. There is no explanation. Just believe it. Just believe and feel the Holy Spirit.”
Get the latest Christian World News stories via email SIGN ME UP
Firmino’s wife Lari and Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker were also in the pool and hugged him after his head was raised from the water. In the caption of the video Firmino said: “I gave you my failures and the victories I will give you too. My greatest title is Your Love Jesus!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come!”
Fellow teammate Fabinho was also in the audience watching.
Quote of the week
Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.
Francis Chan

Blog Jan 17th Gareth Malone

Heart and Soul featuring Mike Backhouse and the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill

Music is so emotive, indeed transformative- I watched an example of this last week. It was a two episode television broadcast of Gareth Malone attempting to produce a choir in a young offender’s prison. It was extremely moving and I can wholeheartedly recommend you watch both episodes on catch up tv.
I have taken an extract from the Guardian newspaper’s review of The Choir: Aylesbury Prison.

It has been 14 years since Gareth Malone first appeared on our screens. In that time he has coaxed a number of unlikely groups not just to sing, but to perform: teenage boys, residents of the South Oxhey housing estate, some military wives. Now, in The Choir: Aylesbury Prison (BBC Two), he is back to do the same with young offenders.
One might, at this stage, take it as read that he will succeed. Malone, still boyish but now greying and – if you can believe it – 44, has a reputation for not failing at this sort of thing. The formula is reliable and repeatable. But Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute Aylesbury is a very particular case.
The 400 inmates, aged between 18 and 21, are doing time for various offences, including drug crimes, robbery, GBH, manslaughter and murder. About a sixth are serving life sentences. Forty per cent are “dealing with some form of mental health problem”. Three months before Malone arrived in June 2019, Aylesbury was placed under special measures owing to high levels of self-harm and violence. Half the prisoners were moved out, and three wings were shut down.
The governor, Laura Sapwell, wants him to start a choir, or something. “I can’t fully see what this will be,” she tells him. But whatever it is, he’s got nine weeks to do it.
The programme quickly becomes an exercise in limiting expectations. Enthusiasm among the residents registers somewhere between low and none. “The mandem don’t tango like that,” says one. Nobody wants to sing, and their musical world is a bit monocultural: everybody listens to drill.
Even when Malone finds interested parties, the logistics of ferrying prisoners around a high security facility makes any kind of assembly next to impossible. Gang rivals are housed in different wings; association across the whole prison is difficult. Malone’s inaugural choir practice is limited to five guys from D-wing. Only three turn up.
Malone, if he feels daunted by all this, hardly shows it. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else wandering through the general population of a prison saying: “Hi! Are you into music at all?” over and over again, as if it is his first day at art school.
And he does, eventually, find people to work with. Rehearsing in small groups or individually, Malone concentrates on song writing, something most of his charges find strangely easy. Dwayne, doing six years for robbery, is particularly talented. “He’s just a bit more open-minded,” said Malone. “He sang. We made music.”
All incarnations of The Choir have some low moments, which serve to make the ending more uplifting. Prison, however, is not designed for uplift; every story is heart breaking. Everybody inside is frightened, depressed and potentially dangerous. One on one, however, they are soft-spoken, insightful and incredibly polite.
The frustrations of working inside are a constant barrier to progress. Malone’s pupils break rules or get into fights and are prevented from meeting him. The prison has some kind of violent incident about once a day – at which point officers just lock Malone behind the nearest door and run off to deal with the situation.
At the point when you would expect things to start finally going right, they get worse. While Malone awaits Dwayne for a rehearsal, Dwayne is badly assaulted and sent to hospital. He’s OK, but he’s done with music, and tired of being told to walk away from fights. “Where is there to walk to?” he says. “I don’t have keys.”
Lewis appears in cell 210, a new arrival. He can – and will – sing, but his mental health is frail. He takes medication for depression and a personality disorder. More often than not he is unable to rehearse. For the first time in the history of The Choir, I am preparing myself for failure.
There is, of course, a reason these things are done in two parts. I don’t think it will spoil the second half if I tell you that Malone perseveres. But on this occasion the success of the choirmaster and his pupils is set against a larger backdrop of failure, of lives wasted, of a system unfit for the task at hand, of a bunch of young men – boys really – with serious mental health issues, confined together, at risk and getting sicker.
In other words: you will cry just like always, but for different reasons. It’s not enough to bite your nails and think: how will Lewis cope with singing in front of an audience in prison? You also have to think: how did someone like Lewis end up in prison?
This is an excellent review and I do I have to admit to finding a tear falling down my face at the finale in part two. One stereotype that the two programmes smashed for me was the belief that young offenders come from bad homes – if you do decide to watch then you will see that this is most definitely not the case and is the main reason for my tear.

Quote of the week.
Don’t worry what others are doing. Do you!
Russell Simmons