Our first Songways Tuscany singing week took place at La Torre alle Tolfe, a beautiful private villa set in a Tuscan garden amongst vineyards and olive groves on a hill-top near Siena.
Jane Harris, Director of Songways, and John Harrison, composer and choir leader from Vermont, US led a wonderful group 35 singers from the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada.
Jane and John taught a wide range of songs from different harmony singing traditions – including evocative folk songs, songs of stillness and beauty, classical gospel, South African, Tanzanian, Cajun, American shape note, a haunting Italian folk song and their own original compositions. We were thrilled to climb the 8th century tower with the owners of Le Tolfe, and to sing across to each other over the Tuscan hills. We also enjoyed a magical moonlit evening with two superb Sienese folk singers and musicians, who shared beautiful local folk songs and then joined us singing our songs and improvising on the mandolin with Jane on her violin. On our final afternoon we sang in the stunning 16th century chapel at Pontignano, with its extraordinary acoustics and incredible frescoes.
There was time in the middle of the day to savour lunch in the shaded seating area in the courtyard, to relax, and to enjoy the pool and garden. The evenings were free, to eat dinner together, socialise and relax. Tasty meals included locally sourced ingredients, wood-fired pizzas and one evening eating out in Siena.
Comments from some of the singers:
Totally life-enhancing experience
Perfect venue for a memorable week
Superb teaching and fabulous breadth of songs
Beyond my wildest dreams
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LA TORRE ALLE TOLFE
La Torre alle Tolfe is a beautiful private villa set in a Tuscan garden amongst vineyards and olive groves. The villa lies at the heart of an organic estate, producing excellent Chianti wine, extra-virgin olive oil and grappa. It has far-reaching views across to Siena, only three kilometres away, and out over the hills of Chianti.
Several former farm buildings on the estate have been converted to charming and well-appointed apartments. The entire estate is managed by the Castelli family with a close-knit team, many of whom have spent much of their lives working on the property.
The main rehearsal space has excellent acoustics and opens onto the garden. There is also a large living room in the main villa with a Steinway grand piano, which can be used as another space for singing and music-making.
The villa has its own large and superbly situated swimming pool, as well as a boules ground, a full size billiards table inside and a table tennis table outside.
JANE HARRIS & JOHN HARRISON
Jane and John co-led Sing the Cambridge Colleges in 2016 to great acclaim and worked together again near Lake Garda in 2018. They thoroughly enjoyed returning to Italy for the Le Tolfe week.
Jane Harris is an experienced choir leader and Director of Songways, based in Bath, England. She leads singing workshops and singing weeks in beautiful places and three thriving choirs. She has a clear, inclusive and enabling teaching style, uncovering the best in singers’ voices and drawing people together with heartfelt, resonant singing. Jane teaches by ear and loves to explore songs in different ways to enrich and deepen the singing experience. She also writes harmony songs, often inspired by the natural world, and plays the fiddle.
A brilliant teacher – always patient, positive and encouraging – with a wonderful choice of songs
John Harrison is a composer, teacher, and arranger working in a variety of styles that reflect his eclectic background in music: rock, blues, jazz, country, gospel, and world music. He has for many years led summer singing camps for adults and teens through Village Harmony and Turtle Dove; directs the Montpelier Community Gospel Choir and Barre Rock City!; and leads workshops for community and church choirs throughout New England and beyond. He taught choral and elementary music at Twinfield Union School in Marshfield, VT for 11 years. John lives with his wife Scottie in Plainfield, VT.
A wonderful week of camaraderie, fun, and glorious music