residential singing workshops

"Superb course and a brilliant tutor. Chris is an inspiration and brought the group together and taught harmonies that we were able to sing with great joy and 'expertise'. I will certainly be attending his courses again."

singing weekends

Welcome to my website where you can find information about all the singing workshops I run. Below is a list of all my residential singing weekends for 2017.

If you've never been on one of my singing weekends before, you might want to read the frequently asked questions.

You can also see what people are saying who've been on one of my workshops before and download my latest newsletter (summer 2016).

Singing Safari, Warwick Folk Festival 2010

Click to go on my mailing list and I'll email you details of one-day singing workshops in your area as well as the residential courses that I run. You can unsubscribe at any time and I promise to never share your details with anybody else.

You can also check out my full website at any time to see if I'm running a course or one-day workshop that might interest you: chrisrowbury.com

"Wonderful! You are a great teacher – authoritative and full of praise.
I leave full of endorphins and a love of humanity."


timetable for the year

I run four general singing weekends each year, plus one specialist weekend for more experienced singers. They run from the end of March until early October roughly every two months. Here is an idea of the pattern each year:

  • late March Felden Lodge, near Hemel Hempstead 24–26 March 2017 SING AFRICA!
  • late May Holiday Inn, near Peterborough 26–28 May 2017 STARS,STRIPES AND MAPLES LEAVES: SONGS FROM ACROSS THE POND
    (from 2018: Lindors Country House Hotel, Wye Valley)
  • late July Brathay Hall, Ambleside, Lake District 21–23 July 2017 ALL ABOARD THE GOSPEL TRAIN
  • early October Willersley Castle, Cromford, Derbyshire 6–8 October 2017 SACRED SONGS TO SOOTHE THE SOUL

And in early November each year I run a weekend for just 16 singers who want to hone their harmony singing skills in a small group: The Small Group Challenge which takes place at the Claret Centre, Buckden, Cambridgeshire 10–12 November 2017.

I will cycle through the main themes that I offer (African, Eastern European, gospel, British folk, songs from around the world) so that I do a different theme at each venue each year.

My singing weekends get booked up very quickly, so make sure you sign up to my mailing list to be informed of the details and when booking opens.
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January 2017

WINTER WARMER WEEKEND — residential weekend

Friday 27 January 2017 to Sunday 29 January 2017
Blaxhall YHA
The Old School House
Blaxhall
Woodbridge IP12 2EA
Suffolk

Cost: £50 for the weekend (£25 for children) including accommodation and two singing workshops. Bring your own food.

Click to read the PDF document Blaxhall Youth Hostel Singing Weekend with full details of how to book.

Enquiries to Carol Balfe: caroljbalfe@gmail.com


Warm your spirit on a winter weekend with singing, walking, eating and laughing. Join a welcoming group and shake off the winter blues (and Christmas excesses!).

Snape in winter

This weekend is not organised by me, but by a group from London who come to Blaxhall each January. There will be a total of four hours of singing workshops during the weekend led by me, but I'm sure plenty of other informal singing!

Arrive any time after 4pm on Friday afternoon to hang out together, chat, play games and sing. On Saturday morning go out for a country walk, visit Aldeburgh or go and spend lots of money at nearby Snape Maltings. There is an afternoon singing workshop on the Saturday from 2.30pm to 5pm followed by a pot luck supper with everyone. On Sunday morning there will be more singing from 10am to 11.30am. The weekend ends at 2pm on Sunday.

The weekend is open to anyone — no experience is necessary and all songs will be taught by ear. All songs will be in harmony with no musical accompaniment. Songs from Africa, Eastern Europe, gospel, etc.

You are most welcome to come with a non-singing partner (although we might be able to persuade them to join in!), or just come for the walks and company and get away from it all.

The weekend is self-catering with typical youth hostel accommodation in bunk beds. People bring their own food including something to share for a communal meal on Saturday evening. The weekend is unstructured, other than the singing workshops.

Enquiries and bookings to Carol Balfe: caroljbalfe@gmail.com
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March 2017

SING AFRICA! — residential weekend

Friday 24 March 2017 5pm to Sunday 26 March 2017 2pm
Felden Lodge
Felden Lane
Hemel Hempstead HP3 0BL (SatNav users: HP3 0BB)
Hertfordshire

Cost: £180 (shared twin), £200 (single occupancy) PER PERSON
if booked and fully paid for by 23 December 2016, otherwise £20 per person more

There is limited scope for a fully accessible room, and it's only a single. Please enquire for more details.


Learn harmony songs from across the African continent. No experience needed – just a love of singing! An opportunity to sing and move to infectious African rhythms.

Click to download a booking form as a Word document. You can fill this in electronically in Microsoft Word then email it (the grey boxes expand to accommodate your text).

If you can't do this for any reason (for example, if you don't have Word on your computer), then download the booking form as a PDF which you can then can print off, fill in and post. Make sure you read Chris's booking and cancellation policy.

Or contact Chris for more information:

Chris Rowbury email address

or phone 01394 610486.

Felden Lodge, Hertfordshire

Felden Lodge is set in 32 acres of peaceful grounds on the rural outskirts of Hemel Hempstead, just 35 minutes by train from central London. Felden Lodge is on the edge of the Chiltern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty, and there are plenty of country walks nearby.

Felden Lodge bedroom
All bedrooms are twin en suite and there is a newly refurbished relaxing lounge area and conservatory style dining room. The weekend includes all meals, tuition and tea/ coffee breaks.

Felden Lodge dining room This weekend is an opportunity to sing and move to infectious African rhythms in a safe and friendly environment. As the old proverb from Zimbabwe says: "If you can walk then you can dance; if you can talk then you can sing"

Learn full-bodied harmonies from South Africa; overlapping rhythms from West Africa; gentle lullabies from East Africa; exotic melodies from North Africa; haunting cries from Central Africa. The weekend is open to anyone — no experience is necessary and all songs will be taught by ear. There will also be opportunities to explore the local area and relax.

Felden Lodge coffee lounge All songs have been chosen carefully and arranged especially for voices only. Everything will be taught by ear (no need to read music!). No previous experience needed – just bring yourself and have a go. Whether you've only ever sung in the shower, or you're already in a choir, there will be something here for everyone – all in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

You'll be amazed at the sound we create together and a recording of the workshop will be made available free afterwards to remind you of the weekend. Click to download a booking form in PDF format.

Click here to hear recordings from previous African singing workshops.
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May 2017

STARS, STRIPES AND MAPLE LEAVES: SONGS FROM ACROSS THE POND — residential weekend

Friday 26 May 2017 5pm to Sunday 28 May 2017 2pm
Holiday Inn, Peterborough West
Thorpe Wood
Peterborough PE3 6SG

Cost: £205 (shared twin/ double), £220 (single occupancy) PER PERSON
if booked and fully paid for by 24 February 2017, otherwise £20 per person more


A weekend of luxury learning songs from across North America. Come and celebrate amazing singer-songwriters from both Canada and the USA.

NOT SUITABLE FOR COMPLETE BEGINNERS — you will need some experience of harmony singing to get the most out of the weekend.

Click to download a booking form as a Word document. You can fill this in electronically in Microsoft Word then email it (the grey boxes expand to accommodate your text).

If you can't do this for any reason (for example, if you don't have Word on your computer), then download the booking form as a PDF which you can then can print off, fill in and post. Make sure you read Chris's booking and cancellation policy.

Or contact Chris for more information:

Chris Rowbury email address

or phone 01394 610486.

Holiday Inn, Peterborough West A weekend of glorious harmony singing, fun and laughter. No experience needed – just a love of singing! Peterborough West Holiday Inn is set in pretty landscaped gardens, opposite Ferry Meadows Country Park, just 2.5 miles from the city centre and close to the A1.

Holiday Inn bedroom
All bedrooms are twin or double en suite and all furnished to a very high standard. The weekend includes all meals, tuition and tea/ coffee breaks. As well as the many facilities offered by the hotel, just across the road are plenty of scenic and pleasant walks by the Nene river and the lakes of Ferry Meadows Country Park.

Holiday Inn swimming pool We will learn songs by Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys) and Carole King (a song made famous by James Taylor). A glorious celebration of amazing song-writing talent from both Canada and the USA. There will also be opportunities to explore the local area and relax. Guests will also have free use of the hotel leisure facilities: swimming pool, sauna and steam room.

Ferry Meadows Country Park All songs have been chosen carefully and arranged especially for voices only in 3- and 4-part harmony.

Holiday Inn dining room Everything will be taught by ear (no need to read music!). No previous experience needed – just bring yourself and have a go. Whether you've only ever sung in the shower, or you're already in a choir, there will be something here for everyone – all in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

You'll be amazed at the sound we create together and a recording of the workshop will be made available free afterwards to remind you of the weekend. Click to download a booking form in PDF format.

Comments from 2016's weekend:

“What a wonderful weekend. It was so lovely to learn new songs and hear the harmonies produced. Lovely people too.”

“Thank you so much for all the hard work you must have put in to prepare and the fun way you delivered it all.”
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July 2017

ALL ABOARD THE GOSPEL TRAIN! — residential weekend

Friday 21 July 2017 5pm to Sunday 23 July 2017 2pm
Brathay Hall
Ambleside LA22 0HP
Cumbria, Lake District

Cost: £170 (standard twin)/ £185 (superior twin/ double)/
£195 (standard single) PER PERSON
if booked and fully paid for by 22 April 2017, otherwise £20 per person more


A fabulous weekend of gospel singing for people of all faiths and none in the beautiful English Lake District — for anyone who loves to sing, no experience necessary.

Click to download a booking form as a Word document. You can fill this in electronically in Microsoft Word then email it (the grey boxes expand to accommodate your text).

If you can't do this for any reason (for example, if you don't have Word on your computer), then download the booking form as a PDF which you can then can print off, fill in and post. Make sure you read Chris's booking and cancellation policy.

Or contact Chris for more information:

Chris Rowbury email address

or phone 01394 610486.

Brathay Hall, Lake District

Ambleside is in the very heart of the Lake District. Brathay Hall, a beautiful Georgian mansion, is set in 360 acres of mature woodland and rolling pasture at the head of Lake Windermere. The peace and tranquillity to be found on the estate, enjoyed by visitors such as Wordsworth, Coleridge and Constable, offers guests a unique sense of space. The weekend includes all meals, tuition and tea/ coffee breaks.

Scafell rooms, Brathay Hall

Superior twin/ double room accommodation is in lodges at the side of Brathay Hall. The lodges have a commanding view of the surrounding Lake District and all rooms can be either twins or doubles (no single occupancy). All rooms offer a unique blend of comfort and contemporary design, with solid oak furniture, flat screen plasma TVs and wireless internet access in addition to the usual standard features. Each room has an en-suite shower and King-sized bed.

Typical Brathay Hall bedroom Standard and single accommodation is in compact twin rooms mostly located on the second floor of Brathay Hall (please note there are no lifts!), with spectacular views of Windermere. Each room has a plasma screen TV, hot drinks facilities, hairdryer, desk, wardrobe, safe and radio alarms. Each room is en-suite.

A fabulous weekend of gospel singing for people of all faiths and none. No modern R&B or evangelical sing-alongs, but back to the earthy basics of purely vocal gospel harmony singing. Immerse yourself in the roots of the blues: southern gospel, Jubilee quartets, and spirituals from the slave plantations.

You don't have to be religious to enjoy the uplifting, passionate, exciting sounds of gospel music. In this liberating workshop you will sing African-American gospel songs from the 1920s and 1930s; spirituals from the slave plantations; and gospel songs from South Africa — all in glorious unaccompanied harmony (not an instrument or backing track in sight).

Typical Brathay Hall view Everything will be taught by ear in a fun, friendly and informal way. No previous experience needed — just bring yourself and have a go. You'll be amazed at the wonderful sound we create together whether you sing regularly in a choir or just in the privacy of your own bathroom. A a recording of the workshop will be made available free afterwards to remind you of the weekend

Click to download a booking form in PDF format.

Feedback from previous weekends at Brathay:

"I enjoyed the whole weekend, but the end was my favourite bit when it all comes together. The venue was good: nice food, great location."

"Thank you for the weekend. I had a great sense of achievement, and met some friendly and interesting people. We worked hard, but you made it fun."

"Thank you for a truly excellent, thoroughly enjoyable weekend and absolutely magnificent venue. Just listened to the recording. Amazing! How on earth did you get a group of strangers to sound so good in a weekend! Wow."

"Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed the weekend both singing and social. 36 voices in various harmonies makes for a great sound though keeping control of us cannot have been easy! I thought Brathay did us proud with comfortable rooms, magnificent views and excellent food."

Click here to hear recordings from previous gospel singing workshops.
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October 2017

SACRED SONGS TO SOOTHE THE SOUL — residential weekend

Friday 6 October 2017 6pm to Sunday 8 October 2017 2pm
Willersley Castle Hotel
Cromford DE4 5JH
Matlock
Derbyshire

Cost: £190 (standard twin/ double/ single)/ £200 (superior twin/ double)
if booked and fully paid for by 30 June 2017, otherwise £20 per person more


A weekend of glorious harmony singing in the midst of autumn splendour. Enliven your spirit with a feast of harmonies and learn songs from a range of cultures and traditions spanning the globe, all in a wonderful Derbyshire setting.

Click to download a booking form as a Word document. You can fill this in electronically in Microsoft Word then email it (the grey boxes expand to accommodate your text).

If you can't do this for any reason (for example, if you don't have Word on your computer), then download the booking form as a PDF which you can then can print off, fill in and post. Make sure you read Chris's booking and cancellation policy.

Or contact Chris for more information:

Chris Rowbury email address

or phone 01394 610486.

Cromford, Autumn 2014

Willersley Castle was commissioned by Sir Richard Arkwright, the great industrialist, in the 1790s. Many of the original features can still be seen today. The Castle overlooks the Derwent Valley world Heritage site with plenty of excellent walks in the area. The main hotel has 30 bedrooms, extensive grounds and a heated indoor swimming pool. You can go on a virtual tour of the hotel, rooms and grounds on the Willersley Castle website.

bedroom, Willersley Castle

The superior rooms all have fantastic views over the Derwent Valley. All the bedrooms at Willersley Castle include tea and coffee making facilities and a hairdryer. There is also a lift in the castle serving both first and second floor bedrooms.

Experience the ancient art of unaccompanied sacred singing, used by people throughout the world to bring joy, healing and inspiration to their lives. Enliven your spirit with a feast of harmonies and learn songs from a range of cultures spanning the globe.

Sacred Song encompasses an amazing mix of musical diversity: from the Black gospel church and the slave plantations of rural Southern USA, to Jewish Sephardic singing from Spain; from South African protest songs to New Zealand Maori hymns; from Corsican polyphony to the lush harmonies of the Russian Orthodox church; from the chants of the Taize community to medieval plainsong; from the Georgian church to the Shaker community; and much more in between. We will learn several songs from some of these different traditions, all especially arranged for voice in unaccompanied harmony.

Willersley Castle oval stairwell The weekend will draw on songs from a wide range of sources from across the globe. Singing sessions will consist of warm-ups, simple songs that bring instant rewards and also more complex songs in several parts that offer the rewarding challenges. There will also be opportunities to explore the local area and soak up the autumn colours.

Cromford, autumn 2014 This weekend is open to all whether you just sing in the bath, or perform in public. All songs have been carefully chosen and arranged for voice only, and will be taught by ear. No previous experience needed, just bring your vocal cords and your enthusiasm! Whether you've only ever sung in the shower, or you're already in a choir, there will be something here for everyone – all in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

You'll be amazed at the sound we create together and a recording of the workshop will be made available free afterwards to remind you of the weekend. Click to download a booking form in PDF format.

Click here to hear recordings from previous sacred singing workshops.
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November 2017

BETTER HARMONY SINGING — THE SMALL GROUP CHALLENGE

Friday 10 November 2017 5pm to Sunday 12 November 2017 2pm
The Claret Centre, Buckden Towers
High Street
Buckden
St. Neots PE19 5TA
Cambridgeshire

Cost: £140 (shared twin)/ £190 (single occupancy of twin) PER PERSON
if booked and fully paid for by 11 August 2017, otherwise £20 per person more

SOLD OUT!
Contact Chris to go on the waiting list — if there's enough interest I plan to run another weekend in 2017


Take your singing to the next level by working as a small ensemble over a whole weekend. Your chance to explore your voice in a safe environment with a supportive bunch of like-minded singers. Strictly limited to 16 singers.

You'll need to be able to hold a harmony part on your own and have done so in the past to be eligible for this weekend.

The cost for the weekend includes full board, all tuition and teas/ coffees throughout.

Take your singing to the next level by working as a small ensemble over a whole weekend.

  • Claret Centre, Cambridgeshire improve your singing and harmonising skills
  • learn to get the best out of your voice
  • get feedback on your singing and harmony skills
  • relish a challenge and seize the chance to work in a small ensemble
  • be prepared to look and listen to yourself carefully
  • step up for a full-on weekend of hard, but rewarding work

This weekend course will be strictly limited to a maximum of 16 singers so I can give more attention to individuals. There will be some training on breath, voice production, vocal qualities, etc. but most of the work will be done using harmony songs drawn from a range of traditions across the globe.


This is your chance to explore your voice in a safe environment with a supportive bunch of like-minded singers, all of whom want to explore and stretch their harmony singing abilities. Serious work, but in a fun style! To get the most out of the weekend you will need experience of harmony singing and be prepared to work in detail on some fairly complex songs.

As a rough guide, you'll need to feel comfortable holding a harmony part entirely on your own. For example, in a three-part harmony song with just two other singers.

Claret Centre The Claret Centre at Buckden Towers is a Victorian house set in a fifteen acre estate offering seclusion and tranquillity. A beautiful collection of buildings from diverse historical periods is surrounded by a variety of gardens and natural features including a Tudor knot garden, a lake, woodland walk, pasture and lawns. Buckden itself is a pleasant village which used to be an old coaching stop on the Great North Road in Huntingdonshire.

Claret Centre Accommodation is in twin rooms all with shared bathrooms (no en suites). We will have the entire main house to ourselves during the weekend. The weekend includes all meals, tuition and tea/ coffee breaks.

Comments from 2015's weekend:

“I felt relaxed and safe to make mistakes. Good teaching style, very nice venue and food. Good balance between learning and relaxing. I enjoyed the weekend very much.”

“I loved the experience of small group singing after learning with the whole group. All the songs were fantastic. It was so good to learn voice strengthening exercises and great warm ups. I learned things about voice timbre that I had never considered. It was all great!”

“I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pace was perfect and the setting was fab. You were very patient and your focus was very clearly on us and our learning rather than your own ego which sometimes happens.”
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