Concert Review

Benny Gallagher and Changing Tunes in Concert at St George’s Church, Beckenham 23rd June 2015

I haven’t seen anything in prisons which gets anywhere near this.”

What a pleasure it was to be part of this great evening of music at the renowned St George’s Arts Festival, now in its 23rd year, and a privilege to be sharing the stage with the celebrated singer/songwriter Benny Gallagher in this fundraising concert.

The first half saw Benny performing a string of his hit songs interspersed with the stories, personalities and great musicians behind them, from Rita Coolidge to Ronnie Laine. Songs included ‘Breakaway’, ‘I Wanna Stay with You’ and ‘Heart on My Sleeve’, keeping up a delightfully informal atmosphere with many opportunities for audience participation and even the chance for the Charity Director to take a couple of sax solos in Benny’s performance of ‘Stay Young’!

Changing Tunes took to the stage for the second half and performed to the highest of musical standards. The stars of our shows are always the ex-prisoners, and they made it a very moving occasion indeed as they shared their own stories and prison experiences and explained how music and the intervention of Changing Tunes helped to re-build their lives.

The performances were assured and accomplished, covering a mixture of covers like ‘Help’ and ‘Getting Better’ by the Beatles and original compositions. There was an audible gasp from the audience when it was announced that the song, ‘One in a Million,’ had been composed by one of our performers. She went on to explain how the song came about starting with her own experience of prison, and wanting to affirm the value and uniqueness of each human being.

Benny Gallagher was so supportive of the work of Changing Tunes in his comments throughout the concert. Describing our work, he said:

“I haven’t seen anything in prisons that gets anywhere near this”

The concert ended with everyone coming together on stage for a barn-storming and crowd-pleasing performance of Benny’s hit song, ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’.

Many thanks to Benny, everyone at St George’s and all the musicians for a great evening.

Philip Emery

Director, Changing Tunes (London & South East)