Creating A Magical Vocal Experience
Having experienced the joy of singing in ancient churches during a week’s holiday in France herself, Anke de Bruijn (pictured above) has developed a holiday retreat business with song at its core in the Lot.
”Singing in these churches transforms the voice with a ‘slap’, quite literally”
“When looking at setting up a business here in South West France, I wanted something that would inspire me and, at the same time, help vocalists to improve their voice whilst experiencing the most wonderful moments possible. Singing with others is both energising and uplifting but, add an ancient church into the mix and you have something truly magical”, explains Anke. “There really is nothing quite like it and I knew I had found my vocation. Singing Holidays was born.
“I was also in the perfect location to achieve my goal of creating a magical vocal experience. Dating back to the Knights Templars, Richard the Lionheart and the days pre-100 Years Wars, there are hundreds of stunning Romanesque churches in the Lot, many of which are closed to the public. Thankfully, the local Diocese granted special permission to our singers and we rehearse in a different medieval church every day.
“Nerve tingling, awe-inspiring and emotional, singing in these churches transforms the voice with a slap, quite literally. Believed to be the sound of angels’ wings back in the 5th-Century, the ‘slap echo’ is when sound bounces off stone walls. To every “TA”, there is a softer, resonating “ta-ta” and the acoustics really are heavenly.
“This is what is known as the ‘chorus effect’, the fuller sound created by reverberation. It not only makes you sound better but it makes you sing better. To be technical for a moment”, she explains,” if you sing and hold a note in a ‘dry’ space where there is no resonance and you go slightly off pitch, you will hear it immediately. The sandstone walls create a ‘wet’ space with plenty of reverberation where the sound bounces back and forth, holding the original pitch and you can, in theory, tune to your own voice and sing in key. Your voice comes back to you, bolder and richer creating an almost out of body experience.”
“When considering how I could attract my target audience, I knew that the choral singing and vocal coaching would be a vital part of the offering but I also realised I had to make sure that the package ensured a rounded experience. Couple the singing with mild weather, beautiful scenery, French food and wine, and the comradeship that comes with a choir and you have a wonderful themed holiday. There is time for relaxation by the pool and even some sight-seeing too. Recognising that different people have different requirements in terms of accommodation I provide contact links so they can make their own arrangements, whether it be self-catering gîtes or bed and breakfast, etc.
“People come from all over Europe as well as North America and Australia and each class and rehearsal is conducted in English,” Anke adds. “To make the most of their time with us, our guests receive the score, sheet music and mp3’s before they arrive. This means that we can start the fun part straight away, singing together and perfecting the choir in time for our final concert, a public performance in one of the churches.”
With thanks to Singing Holidays
First published in the March/April 2020 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Anke de Bruijn