Folk songs from South Africa

A fantastic weekend learning a range of songs from the South African folk tradition (some with dances!) in the heart of the medieval cathedral city of Salisbury.

South African choir
photo by GovernmentZA CC BY-SA 4.0

"I've been humming most of the songs through the week and my kids can't believe we all sounded so tuneful after one short weekend." Participant on 2022 African singing weekend

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Friday 13 September 2024 4pm to Sunday 15 September 2024 2pm
Sarum College
19 The Close
Salisbury SP1 2EE

Click here for venue accessibility information.

Cost: £225 (twin/double en suite) | £235 (twin/double en suite with view) | £225 (standard single, shared bathroom) | £285 (single en suite) PER PERSON
if booked and paid for by 14 June 2024, otherwise £20 per person more



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Sarum College, Salisbury Sarum College is based in historic grade I-listed buildings in Salisbury's Cathedral Close. It's a five-minute walk from the High Street with shops, cafes and a twice-weekly market. It's about a 15 minute walk from the railway station. Car parking at Sarum College is very limited and is available on a first-come first-served basis. There is one space reserved for disabled parking.

Sarum College double bedroom Forty of the 52 guest bedrooms are en suite. Wren bedrooms at the front of the College have uninterrupted views of the Cathedral, several others have lovely views overlooking the rooftops of the Close and spire. Rooms are single, double and twin; all have tea and coffee-making facilities. None have televisions. There is free wifi throughout the buildings. Although Sarum College is a Christian centre, this singing weekend will be secular and all are welcome, regardless of religious beliefs.

Sarum College dining room The South African people are a singing nation. They sing for life (birth, marriage, health, sickness, death). They sing for rain or no rain, for planting and for harvest. They sing in sadness and happiness. They sing about love, frustrations and suffering. They sing in praise of God, ancestors, their brave leaders, their community. South African indigenous folk music is always accompanied by dance and movement. One of its main characteristics is the syncopated nature of its rhythms. These often defy notation and songs are learnt and taught by ear. It's easier to sing the songs by dancing the rhythms!

view of Salistbury cathedral from Sarum College South African folk singing, which has influenced both struggle and African church music, is essentially an oral tradition. It is learnt by ear and transmitted from singer to listener from one region to the next, through marriages, concerts, conferences and other forms of meeting. Folk music is normally sung a cappella. The robust, full tonality of the voice is more than sufficient to carry the song, no instruments are needed. Most folk songs are in four-part harmony with a short, simple A-B structure repeated several times with a leading voice, rather than a conductor, guiding the performance

Lox Lane Farm, Dorset We will learn a range of different styles of South African folk songs (some with movement!) including church songs, songs from the isicathamiya tradition (made famous by Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and protest songs from the apartheid era. 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. There will be a break on the Saturday afternoon to explore Salisbury which has several interesting walks, or you could explore the cathedral or even go shopping!

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Feedback from 2022 African singing weekend:

"What a welcome much needed weekend it was. Can't thank you enough for such an exhilarating, joyful experience learning those wonderful songs. Thanks to you, my spirit felt revived!"

"Thank you so much for another great weekend. It really transports one to another place with wonderful harmonies of voices and lovely people. Looking forward to the next one."

"Thank you so much for a wonderful relaxed fun weekend, you really have a deft gift of getting us all to engage and sing."

"I loved the singing workshops of course, your teaching style is lighthearted but also purposeful and you're not afraid to tell us when we need to improve. I loved the songs and I also really like how you build up the songs gradually and coupled with singing them multiple times, they seem so effortless in the end – it really is a joy to sing them through."

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