We are now rehearsing for our concert on 27th February
The Sun Does Shine, is a new musical work, created by Harvey Brough and Justin Butcher and inspired by Anthony Ray Hinton’s autobiography. At the age of 28, Ray Hinton was wrongly convicted of multiple murders and sentenced to death by a racist Alabama court. He spent the next 30 years on Death Row, fighting to prove his innocence, before finally being released in 2015. His remarkable story shows how the human spirit can rise above unimaginable hardship. He did not leave prison broken and embittered. Instead, his faith, compassion, sense of humour and love, gave him the capacity to forgive and to embrace life. His relationships saved him – his mother and best friend never doubted him, other prisoners became his friends (many of them were executed), and the prison guards grew to respect and believe him. His flights of imagination and love of reading kept him sane. He brought hope and humanity to a place of death and despair. His message has a universal relevance.
Ray Hinton now works with his lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, to help others on Death Row and to campaign against capital punishment in the States. He has given his blessing to this project.
But what relevance does Ray’s story have for us, here in the UK? Though set a world away, in Alabama, we think his story touches on wider concerns about criminal justice and offers an inspiring message of courage and hope to anyone involved in the prison system. Working with our partners, the Prison Reform Trust, we have linked up with prisoners in the UK, who are serving long-term or life sentences, and we hope to weave their experiences into a documentary film that we are making to complement the oratorio. Eventually we hope to take the music and the film into prisons around the country.
The film itself will explore how a community choir like Vox embraces and internalises a story that is far removed from our own experiences. It will follow our creative journey as we learn to convey that story through music, with a power and integrity that makes for something beautiful and also challenging. It will show how, through art, a story of redemption can be celebrated in a way that is also disruptive, asking uncomfortable questions about our own assumptions/stereotypes and it will put a spotlight on how, as a society, we deal with crime and punishment, and those tagged as ‘criminals’, here in the UK. We don’t have to answer those questions – raising them is enough.
The Arts Council England are supporting this project. We are working closely with the Prison Reform Trust. We have raised additional funding, but we need to raise another £6,000 in order to complete the project. If you would like to sponsor TSDS, please get in touch or hit our JustGiving button below.