Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, ...
At the weekend I went on a Learn to Sing holiday with Solos and it turned out to be a really great break. It's actually surprising to look back on it and realise it only lasted just under 48 hours since so much went on.
I had to go via the M25 to get there, which on a Friday afternoon was not the best choice (24 minutes to go 6 miles?) and the hotel Latimer Place was only about 2 miles off Junction 18. But when I arrived there it was impossible to believe the motorway was so close since it seemed right in the middle of the countryside. The main buildings are at the top of the hill and look down on a wooded and agricultural valley, with the River Chess dammed at this point to make a fish pool. It was without doubt one of the most beautiful rural views I've seen, not dramatic but somehow gladdening as you sat in the warm sunlight looking down at it. The weather at the weekend was warm with golden dusks, but with the first freshness of autumn.
We started singing the first night we arrived, before the lessons started. This was helped by the generous welcome drink and the 1/2 bottle of wine with the meal. Although this was advertised as a beginners' holiday, we had a couple of people who sang in choirs but were hoping to pick up a few tips, and who both seemed happy that it had acted as a refresher course for them. One of them initiated the singing as we finished our desserts and everyone just joined in as they felt like it. The singing lessons were led by Helen Garratt and she was an excellent teacher, enthusiastic, good-humoured, able to explain things, and flexible. Particularly useful was practise in breathing and projection with some immediate benefits so you could feel the result of what you were doing. I was pretty amazed at how far we came, since we started with simple clapping rhythms and trying to hit specific notes, but by the end of the day we were doing - what seemed to me to be - quite complicated parts singing with descants.
Saturday evening was more singing after dessert, and I departed about 10:30 when I was going hoarse, and also when the group had just finished a version of Tom Jones's "Delilah" after which anything was going to be an anti-climax :-) The Sunday morning Helen's husband came along and we made a CD of about 7 songs. The actual process of doing this with microphones and levels, and doubling of tracks was interesting in itself and we were allowed a sneak preview of one of the songs which sounded suprisingly competent! I shall report back on the final CD when it arrives.
The hotel was a great place to stay for a course, which seems to be it's main line of business. The rooms were comfortable and not too cramped, there was free coffee and cakes during the day, the food was really good and plentiful, and the staff were uniformly pleasant and helpful - particularly our memorable waiter.