Singing week in a Ghent monastery, 2023

A small group of friends meet in a Flemish monastery in Ghent to explore interesting music (both English and Flemish) and drink interesting beer.

Update (31/07/23)

  • Done! Thank you to everyone for a great week!
  • Send your feedback (good and bad) via email or WhatsApp.
  • All feedback welcome, but particularly on practical arrangements.


  • Full music pack (21MB, 131 pages)
    • note: you don’t need to print this! full printed copies will be provided and the cost is covered by what you’ve already paid
  • Spotify playlist
    • compiled by Jessica Davies: buy her an alcohol-free beer
  • YouTube playlist

Health warning for the playlists! Many recordings are slightly different from our scores, and some are very different indeed. This is normal for old music, when different historians and editors interpret the original manuscript differently. So you can usefully use these recordings to get the general vibe, but you’ll quickly notice discrepancies if you listen for details. Also, some stuff is just missing from the playlists, either because it has never been recorded or the recordings haven’t made it into cyberspace.

Wednesday 26 July: Hymns and psalms

  • Phos hilaron
  • Pange lingua
  • Psalm 20
  • Psalm 1
  • Criste qui lux es
  • Luther: Ein’ feste Burg
  • Hassler, Bach: O sacred head, once wounded
  • Bourgeois, Dowland: All people that on earth do dwell
  • Tallis: O Lord, in thee is all my trust
  • Croft: O God, our help in ages past
  • Williams: When I survey the wondrous cross
  • Ouseley: Let children that would fear the Lord
  • Jarman: O for a thousand tongues to sing
  • Blow, Purcell, Maxim: Psalm chants
  • Vaughan Williams: Come down, O love divine

Thursday 27 July: Catholics and Protestants

  • Fayrfax: Missa O quam glorifica (extracts)
    • Recommended voicing: S, A/T, T/B
  • Tallis: Nunc dimittis in Latin
    • Recommended voicing: S, A, T, Bar, B
  • Tallis: Nunc dimittis in English
  • Byrd: Lord, hear my prayer instantly
  • Byrd: Ave verum corpus
  • Philips: Ascendit deus
  • Lawes: Happy he who God obeys
  • Dowland: Lord, to thee I make my moan

Bonus track! O death, rock me asleep

Friday 28 July: Cathedrals and parish churches

  • Blow: My God, my God, look upon me
  • Purcell: Funeral music for Queen Mary //
  • Ravenscroft: My soul, praise the Lord
  • Harwood: Vital spark of heavenly flame
    • Recommended voicing: choose any part
  • Stanford: When Mary through the garden went

Saturday 29 July: Three Choirs Festival

  • Brewer: A solemn prayer
  • Brewer: I heard the bells
  • Williams: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace
  • Elgar: As torrents in summer
  • Elgar: Owls
  • Kodály: Túrót eszik a cigány
  • Sumsion: In exile

Flemish music

  • Alexander Agricola:
    • O quam glorifica
    • Fortuna desperata
  • Jacob Obrecht:
    • Missa sub tuum praesidium (extracts)
      • Recommended voicing: Kyrie: S, A, T; Agnus: S, S, A, A, T, T, B
    • Alma redemptoris mater a 3 (extracts)
  • In memoriam Josquin des Prez
    • Vinders: O mors inevitabilis: lamentatio super morte Josquin de Pres
    • Richafort: Missa pro defunctis in memorial Josquin des Prez (extracts)
  • Orlando di Lasso
    • Prophetiae Sibyllarum (extracts) //
    • Missa decem variis concentibus (Missa Jäger Venizio) (extracts)
    • Matona, mia cara

For the monks

  • Kyriale XI

Isn’t there way too much music?

Don’t panic: we will not spend equal time on everything. Some pieces will be the serious focus of our workshops, while others will be passing attractions.

Which part should I sing?

The idea of a standard SATB choir, with two female and two male parts, was only really established in the 18th century. Before that, music was written for all kinds of assortments of voices, depending on the composer’s preferences and the context of performance. That’s why we have stuff in three, four, five, six and seven parts.

To make matters more complicated, some of the music on our list would originally have been sung by men only (with or without counter-tenors), and some parts might have been intended for instruments. Some music was designed to be flexible, adding or removing parts depending on the available singers, while the pitch could also be adjusted to taste. So any attempt to map old music onto modern choirs inevitably involves some give and take.

In general, I’ve tried to choose keys that I hope will allow everyone to pick a line that at least mostly fits. So, if you want to practise in advance, I’d say that you are free to choose without worrying too much about what everyone else is doing. Which line you pick will probably vary from piece to piece, depending on the key, the range, and what you fancy singing. And if you find a piece where really none of the lines fits your voice, which may happen for any part, then sit it out and listen!

The overall group balance doesn’t worry me too much. I think we have enough flexible sight-readers in the group that those who want to learn a particular line in advance can do so, and the others can adapt to make it work. It’s not like we will be spending hours on any particular piece.

How much sight-reading will be involved?

Easy question, complicated answer.

Firstly, the aim is not to rehearse and then perform, but more to sing and work on the repertoire together for our own pleasure. Any small performances (eg for the monks) will be incidental. So there is no target standard of performance we need to reach, and hence we don’t all need to start at exactly the same point on day 1.

But the other way to look at it is that a lot of people there will be fairly good sight-singers, so if someone is lagging, they might feel a bit self-conscious. That is really an individual preference and it can be offset by preparation. Non-sight-readers can prepare to their hearts’ content, of course. But then they will not get quite the same pleasure of ‘discovery’ en ensemble. I also plan to work from original notation a bit, which could make private preparation challenging for some pieces.

So. If you are confident to sight-read, then great. If you would like to prepare thoroughly, then also great, but then you may sacrifice some of the joy of discovery. And if you want to turn up unprepared and can’t sight-read at all, then you will probably feel a bit self-conscious, but you still won’t torpedo anything.


Arrive on Tuesday 25 July, anytime that suits you. If it’s after 18:00, let Toby know or call reception in advance to get an access code.

Schedule for 26–29 July:

  • 07:30 Breakfast
  • 09:00 Singing
  • 12:00 Free time
  • 19:00-21:00 More singing or more free time

Schedule for 30 July:

  • 09:00 Rehearsal
  • 10:00-11:30 (approx) High mass


  • Arriving by Eurostar: When you arrive at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid, take a direct train to Gent-Sint-Pieters/Gand-St-Pierre (28 mins).
  • Arriving by air: Look for trains to Gent-Sint-Pieters/Gand-St-Pierre, probably changing in Brussels.

When you arrive at the station in Ghent, take tram 1 from near the station towards Evergem. Pay on board with a contactless credit or debit card. You can ride for 15 minutes to Burgstraat and then walk for 1 minute to the monastery, or get off 3 stops earlier at Korenmarkt and take a leisurely 10-minute walk through the historic centre of Ghent.


The accommodation is located at Het Rustpunt, Burgstraat 116, 3000 Gent. Map: