gerontius newsletter - February 2015

Dear Gerontius subscriber,

Welcome to the February 2015 issue of our newsletter.

This time our theme is Choir Tours. Going away with your choir can be a wonderful experience – a chance to visit an interesting place, sing in some spectacular venues, build relationships and "team spirit" within the choir, and forge friendships with fellow singers from different cultures. The logistics can be daunting however, especially if you or your committee have never done it before. We are sharing some experiences and advice from choirs who have successfully toured abroad "under their own steam", and we also have input from some organisations who are professionals in arranging choir tours of different types. We hope you find it useful and stimulating.

In the March/April edition of the newsletter, the topic will be choral holidays. If you have experience as an individual or a group of taking part in a singing holiday or summer school, either here or abroad, please do let us know about it. Just email or as soon as possible if you'd like to contribute. As always, we are happy to include any other choir news or announcements, even if they are not specifically related to the newsletter's theme.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter. Do feel free to forward it on to friends and others in your choir, or just send them the link to the newsletter online:

With best wishes,

Tim and Denise Ault

P.S. If anyone is interested in choral weekends to UK Cathedrals, you might find the following Facebook group useful: Cathedral Visiting Choirs' Forum. It's a closed group, so you will have to message the organisers to join.

Newsletter contents
1. Rayburn Tours
2. Run by Singers
3. Renaissance Choir
4. Lacock
5. North London Chorus
6. Association of British Choral Directors

Rayburn Tours

Rayburn Tours logo
Rayburn Tours image

Did you know that this year, Rayburn Tours will be celebrating its 50th anniversary year? We are extremely proud of the fact that in this time we have created thousands of tailor-made international concert tours for choirs just like yours!

Since 1965 there have been many things that have changed, but the one thing that has always remained constant is our passion for what we do. Our dedicated and experienced team have proven over the years that they have the skills and expertise to arrange unique and memorable concert tours, which are tailored to meet both the performance and leisure objectives of each and every choir we work with. We know that no two choirs are the same, and likewise, no two tours are the same!

Each year we delight in the positive feedback we receive from touring choirs. Through travelling and performing together over such a condensed period of time, performances improve, understanding of roles will heighten and the overall bond of your group will develop significantly. Couple this with the fact that everyone on tour has had a fantastic holiday together and it's a great way for you to provide your members with fond memories that will last a lifetime!


Let us help you start planning something special…

Enquire before the end of 2015 and you could be in with a chance of winning one of our special birthday Golden Tickets, giving each member of your group a massive £50 off the price of the tour! (

Give us a call today on 01332 347828 to start talking to one of our choir tour experts about the possibilities for your choir. Alternatively you can view a sample of our favourite choir tour destinations and venues at

Run by Singers

Run by Singers logo
Run by Singers choir photo
Run by Singers image 2
Run by Singers image 3
Run by Singers image 4

The gentle art of touring – three variations on a theme

There are basically three ways of taking a choir on tour. They're all fun and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

For many choirs the best way to organise a tour may well be to do it yourself. It should be the cheapest way to tour – especially if one of the choir members has a contact in an attractive foreign location. Your choice of destinations will always be limited by the knowledge within the choir and the availability of people to go out in advance to knock on doors of foreign churches and make deals with hotels and restaurants.

I have been on tours like that – and enjoyed them - but I also remember a lot of waiting outside locked churches while somebody ran around frantically looking for the person with the key.

The second option is to go to a specialist tour organiser who will offer you a wide choice of destinations – and take all that organisational pain away from you. It will cost a bit more but your tour will be planned by professionals who organise large numbers of tours every year. But of course, it won't solve the problem of reluctant tourers and unbalanced choirs. When was the last time you toured with too many tenors – or not enough altos?

And if your group is too small, the tour may be too expensive for the singers – or in some cases – impossible to arrange at all. You'll often find the choir divides neatly between people who really want to tour – and those who always express lots of interest when touring is discussed but will never actually commit.

But there is a third way to tour. If there is a small group of you who really wants to go and sing somewhere amazing like Venice or Vienna without waiting for others to make up their minds there are companies out there that can offer you exactly that. My own company – Run by Singers – brings together singers from choirs all over the UK to sing in a wide range of European locations with well-known guest conductors. So there is an opportunity to learn new techniques, try out new repertoire and meet new singers – all while having a great holiday.

Over the last eleven years we have sung Bach in Leipzig, Faure and Durufle in Paris and Monteverdi in Venice. These are not 'Bring and Sing' events – they are for serious singers and numbers are restricted, but once experienced many people return year after year. Best of all from your own choir's point of view, there is no minimum number required. You can just sign up on your own or with your partner if you want. And it probably costs less than you think.

Nick Couchman
Run by Singers

Renaissance Choir, Emsworth, Hampshire

Renaissance Choir photo

Visit to Galicia, 2014

The Renaissance Choir had a very successful one-week tour to Galicia, Spain in late May 2014. The trip was themed around the Camino Ingles (the ancient Pilgrims' Way footpath) and split between A Coruña (2 concerts) and Santiago de Compostela (1 church concert, and a Pilgrims' Mass and recital in the Cathedral). Twenty-five singers made the trip and with partners and friends the party size was about 40. We had excellent local contacts in A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela who were essential in building the tour programme and opening doors, and we joined up with a local choir for the first part of the tour.

Previous tours have been organised to Krakow (2012), Lisbon (2010), Budapest (2008), Paris (2006), Italy and many others before. Because we are a small choir we have saved money by doing all the (time-consuming!) organising ourselves. For all tours we have tended to follow the following pattern, which has worked well for us.

  • Tours take at least a year to plan and firm up. A small sub-committee should be set up at the outset, ideally with someone as fluent as possible in the local language.
  • Have/use/find a local contact, ideally influential and with the right connections, to advise on and help build the programme. This might be the conductor of a local choir.
  • A local choir. Pairing up with a local choir guarantees (a) at least one well attended concert, as their own followers will be there and (b) great possibilities for social interaction after a joint concert. Try and learn by heart some cheery songs in full harmony – foreign choirs are fantastic at this and after-concert informalities can include singing to each other.
  • Send comprehensive publicity material in advance, as this will help build up the profile of the choir in terms of its musical and organisational capabilities which can reassure the hosting choir. An attractive 'hook' (such as, in our case once, singing "Spem in Alium") can be key to getting foreign choirs and conductors to commit to working with you.
  • If affordable, an early recce visit to the region by one or two people to scout out venues and hotels, and meet likely contacts and choirs is likely to be money well spent.
  • Start travel planning early
    • Air travel – 6+ months in advance; need to book budget airline flights as soon as they become available
    • Hotels – 6-12 months in advance (or more for larger choirs); the most suitable hotels will fill up early. We try for bulk discounts, and also ask for use of a large room to practice in.
    • Local coach travel – 3 months in advance should be enough. We try and use one company for the whole tour. Itinerary comprises airport transfers and a mix of half-day and whole-day excursions. Use a company local to the tour area, for best rates.
  • Keep plenty of time free for sight-seeing and relaxing. For us, four concerts in a week is about right, with at least one whole day free.
  • For all our recent tours we have produced an illustrated tour booklet with the week's schedule, all contact and safety information, tourist tips and useful language basics.
  • We try and have one evening meal all together, preferably towards the end of the week.

Our tour experiences are among our most treasured memories. Our next target is Rome, 2016, in our 40th anniversary year!


Lacock logo
Lacock - Chris Watson of the Tallis Scholars
Lacock - Monteconero, Italy
Lacock - Trogir, Croatia

The Lacock organisation runs week-long early music courses for choral singers led by some of the best conductors in the field. We gather together a balanced group of voices and work hard on the music during the day, relax together over supper in the evening and give a concert at the end of the week. Here are some of our courses in 2015. The full details are on our web site

May – Venice: a week of early Tudor music in a church on the Grand Canal with Chris Watson of the Tallis Scholars (pictured)

June – Monteconero, Italy: a course exploring the music of Clemens non Papa and Pierre de Manchicourt with Erik Van Nevel in a mountaintop former monastery on the Adriatic (pictured)

August – Jimena de la Frontera, Spain: A week of Marian music for the Feast of the Assumption in an Andalusian pueblo blanco with Justin Doyle

September – Trogir, Croatia (pictured): Tye, Taverner, Sheppard and Byrd in an old Venetian port on the Dalmatian coast near Split with Patrick Craig

You will find more information about all these courses and conductors on the Lacock web site To join our emailing list to receive alerts when new courses are announced, email us at

North London Chorus

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Visit to Berlin, 2013

In November 2013, 79 members of North London Chorus went to Berlin to perform Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, as part of the city's celebration of its centenary year. This amazing work needs huge forces: a large orchestra, a chamber orchestra and three choirs (large mixed, semi chorus and children's) – and two conductors!

We were able to join forces with Cantus Domus, a Berlin-based choir, who were very friendly and English-speaking. The lead-up to the visit saw an email marathon between the two choirs, as organisers strove to arrange flights and accommodation, information on sight-seeing, eating places and even hairdressers, as well as preparing a complex seating plan to mingle the two choirs. The list of instructions seemed to change constantly! However, we were very well looked after: some North London Chorus members elected to stay in hotels, but many lived with Cantus Domus families. On the first night there was a welcome dinner for all at a local restaurant, and a post-concert disco.

After the initial welcome we were plunged into an intensive rehearsal period. Artistic decision also had to be made long-distance between London and Berlin, and this made for an interesting rehearsals: different dynamics tried and discarded, extra breaths granted and removed… Rehearsals were longer – and tea breaks shorter - than we Brits were used to! However we had the luxury of two long rehearsals with the orchestras and soloists. Our conductor, Murray Hipkin had taken us meticulously through the many complexities of the War Requiem, so we were well prepared to blend with Cantus Domus singers, and to follow the different conducting style of their conductor, Ralph Sochaeczewsky. By the end of the rehearsals, a real friendship with Cantus Domus, both artistic and personal had been forged.

The concert was held in the beautiful Grosse Saal of the Konzerthaus – which was completely sold out. As Ralph raised his baton, and the first whispered 'Requiem aeternam' floated over the hall, we began to raise our performance to a new level of accuracy and emotional intensity. After the last gentle amen died away, there was complete silence for a long moment before thunderous and prolonged applause. It was an unforgettable experience.

The following July, the two choirs gave a return concert in London, at Milton Court near the Barbican – a programme that included Brahms' great humanitarian work Ein Deutsches Requiem. These concerts marked the centenaries of Benjamin Britten (1913) and the outbreak of WW I (1914) in a spirit of commemoration and reconciliation, and forged a new Anglo-German friendship.

Association of British Choral Directors

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Association of British Choral Directors - image 2

Conducting Courses and Masterclasses in London 2015

Courses available for conductors of all levels and ages

The Association of British Choral Directors has finalised details of courses in London for singing leaders. Following the success of abcd's first ever Advanced Course in 2013, another Advanced Course will run this year. There will also be Initial and Intermediate courses, and a Young Conductors Day in London. Courses are also being planned elsewhere in the country later in the year

The Initial Course is suitable for those with no previous conducting training, who are not yet conducting regularly as well as those who have some experience leading choral music. Many who take this course are musicians who have not conducted choirs before, assistant conductors with no previous training, teachers who have been asked to lead a choir and others who find themselves conducting unexpectedly. It will run on 21st March, 25th April, 23rd May and 27th June.

The Intermediate course is designed for those who conduct a choir regularly and wish to develop the technique they already have. It will also look at programming and arranging for your choir. It will run in London on 17th and 18th April, 17th May, 14th June, 12th July, 13th September, 17th and 18th of October. The course is accredited by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and is accepted as a substitute for the DipABRSM (Music Direction).

The Advanced course is designed for those who conduct a choir regularly, to a high standard, and have successfully taken the abcd Intermediate Course, DipABRSM or have the equivalent training and/or experience. The group size is small (10 participants) and there is a resident choir throughout the course to allow focus and ample practical time. This course can lead to the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music examination for those students who wish to take it. This can be discussed with course tutors during the course. The course will run on 28th and 29th March, 25th April, 6th June, 18th July, 19th September and 24th October.

The Young Conductors' Day is for anyone aged 18 – 25 who is interested in leading a choir. No previous conducting experience is necessary, just a passion for choral music. The day takes place in London on Saturday April 11th.

More information, including details of course fees and how to book, is available at Alternatively you can contact abcd Training Manager, Penny Homer, on or 07805 454563

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