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Jesus’ parable stories set to music by Watermead Music

“We all know Good Samaritans - people willing to help others, generous and kind.  We all know lost sheep who need patience and understanding to find their way again.  How many families have prodigal sons and daughters with loving parents ready to welcome them home? We all have talents and are encouraged to use them ...

“People already know the Parables of Jesus in their own everyday language!  Two thousand years of telling and re-telling his parables have made them part of our thinking...”

Above is the introduction on our 2006 CD recording, Don Sings the Parables, with Don Maclean - our musical setting of 12 of the parables of Jesus.   The CD was only the beginning of the venture and as you read on we hope that you, too, will find a way in which you would like to share our re-telling of the parable stories - at church, in school or college, with your local community.

Visit our “Parables” download pages to see what is available.

Our “Parable story” began one weekend in 2001 when Fr John found himself inspired to write eleven of the parable stories in verse.  We had already set the parable of "The Lost Sheep" to music in 1996 for our children's recording, "A Little Child Shall Lead". But this new collection of wordings was to inspire a continuously evolving initiative, which has so far seen us produce a CD recording, "Don Sings the Parables", a production for primary schools, “Parables Made New” and a musical, "The Parables of Jesus", for senior school - and for all ages.

The CD ~ “Don Sings the Parables”

We enjoyed the prayerful exercise of setting the parable verses to music and Alison composed a variety of catchy melodies and rhythms.

But who would sing and record them?  Someone of sincere faith and with a good sense of humour.  We thought of Don Maclean – a lifetime in show business, presenter of “Good Morning Sunday”, the best religious programme on the BBC. He replied immediately (Don is always courteous) and invited us to send the parable verses. He later told us he thought it was a naff idea, setting the parables to music: but he liked what we sent!  They made him laugh, he said, and he knew he could make other people laugh – it was an original idea for show business evangelisation!  He’d like to do it.

How enjoyable the rehearsals were and how good the final recording.  Don was backed by our own Watermead singers, Anawim, along with young singers from St Joseph’s Primary, St Paul’s and De Lisle Secondary schools. He was able to present the first CD to Pope Benedict in Rome when he travelled there as a gift from the BBC in recognition of his years of presenting “Good Morning Sunday”, and was able to speak personally to the Pope.

To listen to tracks from the recording click on the above CD cover - (Click here for more details - or to purchase)

We had forgotten to take a camera with us when the young people went  to the recording studio to put down their backing tracks, and then one of the Mum’s (Helen) went and bought a disposable camera. This was the best photo we could manage of the young people together (Rebecca, Hannah, Rebecca, Scarlett, William, Mary & Catherine).  Don had put down his track the previous week and the youngsters enjoyed listening to his voice as they added theirs. (Not pictured are Matthew, Fr John & Alison, also on the backing tracks)

Rory Maclean’s Cartoons

When planning the design of the insert for the CD, we knew we wanted to balance the deep meaning within the stories with our own humorous approach to their telling.  Fr John wrote an introduction for each of the tracks, inviting people to explore further the much deeper understandings.  But then, how to carry through the humour onto the insert pages?  Don told us his son, Rory, was a gifted cartoonist and said he would ask him if he would draw for us.  He agreed and sent through four cartoons - “The Lost Sheep”, “The Prodigal Son”, “The Good Samaritan” and “The Pestering Widow”.  

The CD is launched ~ February 2006

Sunday 26 February

This day was chosen as it was the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of Watermead’s first recording “Our Songs Give Praise”.  We recorded our cassette album on Sunday, 27th February 1994, in St. Theresa’s Church, Birstall, where the venture began.

Watermead friends from over the years, along with parish friends, were invited and Don and Toni came as special guests. The young people involved put on a presentation to several of the songs and Don came and entertained all present and signed copies of the CD’s.  The afternoon ended with a Mass of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday 8 & Thursday 9 February

Martin (of SOS Supplies) had agreed to market the CD along with our other items and, in February, had a stand at the Christian Resources Exhibition being held at Stoneleigh Park Exhibition Centre in Warwickshire. He arranged two Showcases for Don during that week and Fr John, Alison, Rebecca and Matthew joined Don in his presentation when he introduced the audience to some of our parable songs - including a very comical acting of “The Good Samaritan” by Matthew and Rebecca.  (Matthew and Rebecca also sang “I Call You Friends”).

“Parables Made New” ~ July 2006

It was suggested to us that we explore the possibility of finding a way of presenting our parable songs to schools and so Don wrote the script “Parables Made New”.  On 18th July Fr John and Alison were invited to the first performance of the show presented by the Year 6 pupils of Don’s local parish primary school, Our Lady of the Wayside.  The presentation was in the parish church (also called Our Lady of the Wayside) - Don’s family church.  The children sang and acted out several of the songs, with Don shepherding the children through the various scenes and songs (click on programme cover image below to see more details).

Our Lady of Wayside programme Inside double w.JPG

“The Parables of Jesus” (the Musical) ~ June 2009

In November of 2008 Fr John approached Jayne Gray, Head of the Performings Arts Faculty our local Catholic secondary school, St Paul’s, and asked about presenting the Parables as a dance/musical.  Jayne was keen to accept the challenge and so the script was worked on.  Once we gave our script to the school, the departments set to work, incorporating the rehearsals into their already busy school schedule.  They decided to use our “Don Sings the Parables” CD as backing for the dance and drama, but on some songs the young singers sang over the original recording’s backing tracks.  Alison wrote two new pieces of music for the production: “The Prologue - Miracle”, as a dance piece to set the opening scene of the musical, and also finished “Cana of Galilee”, a hymn which had been in progress for some time and that had become Fr John’s inspiration for the script.

Gordon Gillick, a theatre set designer and friend of Fr John’s in a previous parish, designed the very simple and effective stage, which consisted of three triangular constructions that were turned to create three different backdrops for the various scenes.

On 25th June “The Parables of Jesus” musical was performed for the first time at the Peepul Centre, a Leicester city theatre, with Don and Toni the special guests for the evening . Don spoke his appreciation at the quality of the production, congratulating the young people along with Jayne and the production team.  The following September 8th saw a much-requested second performance, again at the Peepul Centre, and we are very grateful to Jayne and colleagues, David and Francesca, for being the first to trial our idea for a musical.  See the programme below.

St Pauls Cast w.JPG

Click on the above DVD cover to view some of the young people involved in  the first production.

See “The Parables of Jesus” - The Musical pages for more information and links to useful resources

“The Parables Project” ~ the future invites all to get involved

We are putting together various resource packs to share the many initiatives that we hope our songs and presentations might inspire.  This will include the above scripts (“Parables Made New” and “The Parables Musical”) along with the recording, sheet music and instrumental packs to suit various abilities, as well as backing tracks in various formats. The plan is to make these downloadable via this website and details will be available soon. However, do contact us if you are interested and we shall make as much as is currently ready available to you.