Singing week in a Ghent monastery, 2023

Update (09/04/23)

  • The music list now includes links to recordings.
  • Balance of payments will be due in April — I’ll be in touch.


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

Plus passing attractions: History of Anglican hymns; History of Anglican psalms

Thursday 27 July

Plus passing attractions: Missa O quam glorifica (extracts) (Robert Fayrfax) ; Lord, hear my prayer instantly (William Byrd) ; Responses (Thomas Tomkins) / /; Psalm 128 (William Lawes); Psalm 130 (John Dowland) ; Missa sub tuum praesidium (extracts) (Jacob Obrecht)

Bonus track!: O death, rock me asleep (Anne Boleyn?)

Friday 28 July

Plus passing attractions: My God, my God (John Blow) ; Missa pro defunctis in memorial Josquin des Prez (extracts) (Jean Richafort) ; [examples of parish church music still to follow — I’m waiting for some sources to arrive]

Saturday 29 July

Plus passing attractions: A solemn prayer (Herbert Brewer) ; I heard the bells (Herbert Brewer) ; Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace (Charles Lee Williams) ; As torrents in summer (Edward Elgar) ; Owls (Edward Elgar) ; Prophetiae Sibyllarum (extracts) (Orlando di Lasso) / /; Missa decem variis concentibus (Missa Jäger Venizio) (extracts) (Orlando di Lasso)

Isn’t there way too much music?

Don’t panic: we will not spend equal time on everything. The pieces highlighted at the top of each list will be the serious focus of our workshops, while the others will be passing attractions.

If you want to prepare in advance, it would make sense to concentrate on the focus pieces and not on the 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 sopranos or basses here and there, then I apologise — maybe that will be one to sit and listen to!

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.


Evening of Tuesday 25 July, until lunchtime on Sunday 30 July 2023.


Simple bed and breakfast accommodation in the Carmelite monastery.

If you live nearby, or want to camp or something crazy, you’re welcome to skip the accommodation and join us after breakfast each morning.


DescriptionDeposit (by end Dec 2022)Balance (by end Apr 2023)Total
Course + B&B single room50€ / £43.50390€ / £347.50440€ / £391
Course + B&B half of a shared room40€ / £37.25300€ / £266.75340€ / £304
Course only (sort your own accommodation)060€ / £5460€ / £54

This is based on 5 nights’ B&B, and then a share of rehearsal costs: total 4×199€ for the room, 100€ for music. Like I said, it’s not commercial, so nobody is making any money out of this. It compares very favourably to hotels in central Ghent in high season, but of course you aren’t staying in a hotel.

Then you have to factor in travel, which you’ll arrange yourself. Eurostar is currently £44 each way, but prices will go up later. Flights from London or the north of England to Brussels or Schiphol are also possible. Don’t fly to Charleroi.

Pocket money: the cost of food and drink in Belgium works out about the same as the UK. Groceries cost more but eating and drinking out is cheaper. Train fares within the country are significantly cheaper.