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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Volunteering We Grow - Song Co-write for CEV - 05/12/23

On the 4th and 5th Decemeber 2023 I recorded a co-written song for the Centre for European Volunteering, titled 'Volunteering We Grow' with Joseph Redsure

As serendipity would have it, we finished recording the song on the International Day for the volunteer (5th December). The song was commissioned by the Centre for European Volunteering, an umbrella organisation which manages volunteers across Europe. The song was intended to inspire civic engagement and voluntary action and to support the CSO's campaign ahead of the EU elections in 2024. The first draft of the song was written by staff member, Joseph Redsure - which I redrafted ahead of our recording session at Big Dog Studios in Sheffield with producer James Fosberry.

I have never co-written lyrics before so it was an interesting experience for me. I really enjoyed the process - adding my own slant to the song. I was also happy to incorporate some of the ideas we have been discussing during my MFA teaching sessions about practicing kindness, empathy and compassion - which I think are inherent in the community building nature of voluntary work. James, as a talented multi-instrumentalist, really helped with the musical development of the song - redrafting the chord sequence which I had written and adding other musical elements to the track. I found it really easy ti work with Joseph, because of his positive attitude, enthusiasm and ideas, but also his willingness to incorporate other people's suggestions and edits. I have worked with James for 5 years on over 20 recordings, so it was interesting to observe the change in dynamics when Joseph joined us in the studio. I think we worked extremely well as a team, although it took me a little while to get used to Joseph's positive energy, as me and James are both quiet, serious and very self-critical - it was a nice change and I really enjoyed the process.

Without question, the hardest part of the recording for me was the harmonies in the chorus. Joseph sings with a strong and ornamented style, whereas I tend to sing with a softer tone and straighter melodies, so it made sense that I would sing the second part. However, I have never been confident at singing harmonies although we have added them as backing vocals to a few of my songs before. When James asked me to sing the entire chorus in third-part harmony, I honestly felt a bit panicked but willing to give it a go. We spent around 2 hours figuring out the harmonies and getting a decent recording of them. I will have to practice a lot if I am to sing the harmonies when we perform the song line - which I am very nervous about.

The other difficulty I faced was that I hadn't learnt the song properly before coming to the studio (due to travelling in Germany for 2.5 weeks and the mutually conveninent recording date being at very short notice). As a result, I wasn't singing the words and melody with as much confidence as I would usually - but we re-recorded some of the vocals after I became more familiar with the song. I think the recording turned out well in the end, it was really interesting to work closely with another musician and to see how his ideas shaped and influenced the track we produced. I am really happy with the outcome and excited for it to be released in January. We are planning to debut the song in a performance at the European Economic Social Committee event at the European Commissions in March 2024.

It was also nice to show Joseph around Sheffield, as he has never visited before. I took him to my favourite venue, 'Chuch - Temple of Fun' where my friends gave him an international welcome to our city.


VERSE 1                                                 

Can you see what we stand for?  

Democracy is at our core,

Volunteers believe in love,

Solidarity and hope, a community for all


Do you know what brought us here?       

why we sing, without fear,

We are volunteers, working as teams,

Striving for peace, united by our dreams



Volunteering we grow              

Sharing all that we know,

We are stronger combined

Learning with open hearts

Acting with wiser minds


Volunteering we grow               

Together we can glow,

Our stars are aligned,

Sharing all that we find,

Being caring and kind


VERSE 2                                 

Have you ever seen the sky?  

Asked yourself and wondered why?

We volunteer, what is it for? (Speaking)

Uncountable stars and love forevermore


Are you proud of what you’ve done,

Laid on the grass, grateful for the sun?

Volunteers share a vision of the world, (Speaking)

Where everyone is loved and every hand is held




A stronger society,

Is what we all need   

United as human beings

By the values we believe




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