Week 1: 27 July – 3 August

Venice and the sea; Bach’s Art of Fugue; Terry Riley and Moondog

Our first week is inspired by Venice, and the wildness of the sea. Andrew Griffiths conducts a glittering Venetian Vespers for Dartington Choir; Stile Antico direct vocal music written for female monarchs and the Queen of Heaven. Alice Oswald presents Nobody, her long poem inspired by the Odyssey, with William Tillyer’s swirling, abstract paintings.

There are classes for viol players, lutenists, harpsichordists, reeds and recorders, and early brass, with Fretwork, David Miller, Jane Chapman, The City Musick and Ensemble Meridiana. The Atéa Quintet, Quentin Poole and Rhiannon Evans direct a full wind and chamber music programme.

Middle Eastern music and song is directed by Merit Ariane and Jon Banks; the brilliant Tamim al-Barghouti returns, along with award-winning performance poet Caroline Bergvall. Stevie Wishart establishes her new Advanced Composition course for early instruments, and Joanna MacGregor brings Bach’s last work, The Art of Fugue, together with choreographer Wayne McGregor, and two cult figures of the 1960s – Moondog and his amazing canons, and Terry Riley’s In C.

Check the music supplies page for further information on each course’s required music and editions.

Session by session

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Choral and Vocal Courses

The Big Choir: A Venetian Vespers

Andrew Griffiths | Session 1
The Feast of the Ascension (Fèsta de ła Sènsa) was, and remains, a major public celebration of Venice’s glory. It culminates in the renewal of the ritual marriage between the city and the sea, as a symbolic gold ring is thrown into the lagoon. Andrew Griffiths has assembled a mouthwatering ‘fantasy’ Vespers for Dartington, bringing together music from Monteverdi’s later publications with sumptuous motets – including Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Croce – reflecting both the religious and political pomp of this lavish festival.

This course is open to singers who are comfortable working from a vocal score. Music will be available to purchase in advance and you will be expected to sing from the score from the beginning of the course. Each session will start with a brief warm up and the piece will be rehearsed throughout the week, leading up to Friday performance.

We strongly encourage that you attend Big Choir Plus in addition to the Big Choir rehearsals, especially if you are a less experienced choral singer or are unfamiliar with the work.

We are creating a booklet of these works for the course; please check the Music Supplies page where we will add more information when it becomes available.

Vocal Masterclass

Emma Kirkby | Session 2
“I feel lucky that my career was characterised from the start by ensemble singing, especially with my first love, the lute; so we’ll have a joint Session with David Miller’s class of accomplished lute and theorbo players early on. This year, as well as our favourite area, the lute songs of John Dowland and his colleagues, there will be special emphasis on Italy’s ‘Secunda prattica’, which offered singers such opportunities for passionate utterance, in the monodies,duets and ensembles of Caccini,`D’India, Barbara Strozzi and others”.


This is an Advanced Selected course; please see the Advanced Courses page for application details.

A Mass fit for a Queen: Sing Tallis with Stile Antico

Will Dawes and Stile Antico | Session 2
A chamber choir course exploring Renaissance gems, aimed at both confident and less confident singers, we will work on lots of material, without the pressure of a performance, and the singers from Stile Antico will join in with the participants. Directed by bass Will Dawes (Director of Chapel Music, Somerville College Oxford), our main focus is the extraordinary Missa Puer natus est nobis by Thomas Tallis, a work composed to celebrate the then-thought pregnancy of Mary Tudor. To represent her husband, Philip II of Spain, we’ll be looking at wonderful Marian antiphons by the Spanish composers Victoria, Guerrero, and Alonso Lobo.

This is a great opportunity for anyone who would like to sing alongside Stile Antico, and would feel happier working in a larger group.

Scores will be available to buy at the beginning of the course for £10.

Vocal Ensembles: Music for Queens of Earth and Heaven

Stile Antico | Session 3
A wonderful chance to study Renaissance repertoire written in honour of female monarchs around Europe, as well as the vast treasury of music written in praise of the Virgin Mary. Aimed at experienced choral and consort singers, participants will be divided into small groups, with the aim of most people singing on their own line. Tutors will work on developing ensemble skills as well as exploring new repertoire.

This course is designed with confident singers in mind. An ability to sight-sing and the confidence to hold your own line (usually one to a part) is required.

Less experienced singers or those looking to build confidence in sight-reading, might prefer to attend the Tallis course directed by Will Dawes and Stile Antico in Session 2, listed on the left.

Scores will be available to buy at the beginning of the course for £10.

Improve Your Sight-Singing

Rhiannon Evans | Session 3
Do you struggle with the demanding multi-tasking activity that is sight-singing? Is recognising rhythms, pitching intervals and reading the text all at once a daunting challenge? This course is open to all, especially singers who are not fluent readers, and anyone wishing to brush up on their sight-singing skills.

Middle Eastern Singing

Merit Ariane | Session 3
A wonderful opportunity to explore vocal repertoire with the celebrated singer and composer Merit Ariane. We’ll be looking at music from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Andalusia, and understanding the myriad interconnections between the Middle East and Mediterranean. You’ll learn to express yourself through colour and ornamentation, reaching the ecstatic core of the music. Suitable for classically trained singers, as well as those interested in world music. This course will be taught aurally with some visual aids to help with language and pronunciation. Merit’s style is warm and inclusive, and she welcomes singers of all to her class.

Vocal Workshop

Nicholas Clapton | Session 3 or 4
The irrepressibly witty and wise teacher and countertenor Nicholas Clapton encourages his participants to perform a wide repertoire, working both technically and interpretatively. Singers can choose between two sessions.

These workshops will be taught on a one-to-one basis in front of the group. Equal time will be given to all participants, and piano/harpsichord accompaniment will be available. Participants should expect to attend all sessions in full, learning from their own coaching as well as from observing others.

You should bring 2 or 3 pieces with which you are already familiar, but which will allow you to work on the development of interpretation and technique.

The Big Choir Plus

Gavin Roberts | Session 4
Additional coaching and rehearsal for The Big Choir repertoire this week, with our wonderful choir repetiteur Gavin Roberts. This additional session for participants already singing in the Big Choir is a really useful opportunity for those less familiar with the repertoire to revisit the morning’s work.

This course is open to those singers already working on the choral repertoire in Big Choir in Session 1.

Instrumental Courses

Advanced Renaissance Wind Band

The City Musick | Session 1
William Lyons and the ever-popular City Musick members return for their ensemble course. This year we will focus on music for cornetts, shawms, dulcians and trombones from the varied and exciting repertoire of the civic and court bands in Renaissance Europe. We’ll also be preparing music for Friday’s Venetian Feast of the Ascension, as well as the legendary Medieval Tavern Night.

This class explores in depth the historical approach to playing sacred and secular music. Attendees of this class should be of a good ability, be able to sight read and be comfortable with varied clefs and transposition. Players of all historical instruments, wind, brass and strings are all welcome. Tutors will be available, by informal arrangement, to give additional coaching Sessions on a one-to-one or ensemble basis: useful for addressing technical issues and exploring repertoire.

This is an Advanced Selected course; please see the Advanced Courses page for more details.

Chamber Ensemble Workshop

Rhiannon Evans | Session 1
Start the day with a fun-filled ensemble play-through of Venetian Renaissance and Baroque repertoire. We’ll be exploring the 16th-century polychoral style, and its influence on other continental composers of the time. All strings and non-transposing wind instruments are welcome; the pitch will be A440.

We recommend a minimum playing standard of Grade 5 level. Music will be provided at the start of the week.

Lute and Lute Ensembles

David Miller | Sessions 1 & 2
David Miller’s course provides a unique opportunity for advanced and experienced players of early plucked instruments to develop their accompanying and continuo skills, whilst recreating the lush and sumptuous qualities of a large 17th-century continuo group, with lutes, archlutes, chitarroni and guitars. There’ll be opportunities to collaborate with singers from Emma Kirkby’s class, as well as perform in concerts towards the end of the week.

Participants should attend both sessions, and anyone starting out on or interested in these instruments is very welcome as an observer. For advanced students, some one-to-one coaching will be available with the course time.

Viol Consorts

Fretwork | Session 1, 2 & 3
Members of the groundbreaking viol consort Fretwork supervise and lead tuition at all levels. Their repertoire will include English, French, Italian and German music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Particpants will be arranged into consorts with the players of a similar level. You should come with your own instrument, and there will be opportunities during the week to sample Dartington’s chest of viols.

This course is not an Advanced Selected course, but bursaries are available.

Renaissance Reeds, Recorders, Brass and Strings

William Lyons, Nicholas Perry and Richard Thomas | Session 2
Group and individual tuition with members of The City Musick, on shawms, crumhorns, dulcian, rackett, recorders, early violin, cornetts, sackbuts, bagpipes and renaissance percussion. We’ll be covering a broad repertoire of dance, theatre, court and civic music from the 15th to 17th centuries. Tutors will be available, by informal arrangement, to give additional coaching Sessions on a one-to-one or ensemble basis: useful for addressing technical issues and exploring repertoire.

Middle Eastern Instrumental Music

Jon Banks | Session 3
Exploring instrumental music from Egypt, Syria and Turkey, this is an introduction to one of the most varied musical traditions led by qanun and santouri player Jon Banks. Intermediate instrumentalists from all backgrounds are welcome; reading music is essential for melody players, but less so for percussionists.

Ranging from high-energy dances and courtly repertory to extended meditative compositions in complex rhythmic cycles, there’ll be plenty of scope to improvise. We’ll include music of the Sufi tradition, alongside Eastern Mediterranean forms such as the sirto and longa.

Music will be provided at the start of the week.

Cornett Masterclass

Gawain Glenton | Session 3
An extra Session for advanced cornett players. Students are encouraged to bring solo or ensemble pieces. We’ll look at Cantar polito e bene – what it meant to perform ‘cleanly and well’ in Monteverdi’s time – as well as ensemble diminution, the art of improvising.

Anyone starting out on the cornett or interested in the instrument is very welcome as an observer.

Sackbut Masterclass

Emily White | Session 3
An extra Session for advanced sackbut players. We’ll concentrate on playing vocally, as well as quietly; ornamentation and intonation. Students are encouraged to bring solo or ensemble pieces.

Anyone starting out on the sackbut or interested in the instrument is very welcome as an observer.

Introduction to Early Keyboard Music

Jane Chapman | Session 3
Jane Chapman studied with Ton Koopman in Amsterdam, and is now professor at the Royal College of Music; she’s one of the most innovative, stylish and imaginative harpsichordists around. Aimed at both pianists of at least Grade 5 and harpsichordists, this course will examine Bach’s music and the rich early keyboard collections of England, France and Italy.

This course is perfect for pianists who are curious about early keyboard instruments, this course offers the opportunity to try the harpsichord in an encouraging and informal environment.

Please see the Music Supplies page for suggested repertoire.

Harpsichord Workshop

Jane Chapman | Session 4
A class concentrating on style, touch and technique, where students explore the colourful harpsichord music of the Renaissance and early Baroque.

If you’re not already a harpsichord player but are interested in the instrument, you are welcome to observe this class and are encouraged to participate in the Introduction to Early Keyboard Music in Session 3.

Please see the Music Supplies page for suggested repertoire.

Moondog and Bach’s Art of Fugue

Joanna MacGregor | Session 4
Artistic Director Joanna MacGregor leads afascinating workshop, open to all instrumentalists, pairing Bach’s mysterious last work The Art of Fugue with Moondog’s amazing canons. The blind composer and performer (a.k.a. Louis Hardin) was a cult figure in the 1960s, living on a street corner in New York. His strict canons mesh jazz, Renaissance motets, Bach and Native American rhythms, and his ebullient pieces – Bumbo, Dog Trot, Bird’s Lament, Heath on the Heather – were much admired by Stravinsky, Bob Dylan and Charlie Parker. Each day we’ll look at The Art of Fugue, play through some Moondog, and discover how canonic writing works. We’ll aim to perform a couple of pieces in Thursday’s late night concert.

Terry Riley’s In C

Richard Boothby | 30 & 31 JULY, 6.30-7.30PM
Suitable for advanced players, a chance to work on Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece In C on early instruments, in two informal Sessions. There’ll be an opportunity to perform in Thursday’s late-night concert, paired with Moondog’s jazzy canons.

Although this is not strictly a course (the sessions fall outside the daily timetable), you will be able to sign up at the start of the week if you would like to be part of this project.

Wind Masterclasses

Atéa Quintet | Session 1
Alena Walentin (flute), Philip Haworth (oboe), Anna Hashimoto (clarinet) and Ashley Myall (bassoon) offer masterclasses for advanced wind players. Improve your technique, hone your performance skills, and discover new repertoire!

Each instrument will have its own dedicated class each day. You should bring repertoire that you know well and on which you are ready to receive further coaching.

This course is aimed at players of Grade 8 level and above.

Wind Ensemble

Quentin Poole | session 2
A great opportunity to enjoy and improve ensemble playing, with excellent varied repertoire tailored to the participants. Grade 6 standard or above is ideal; there’ll be an informal performance on Friday afternoon.

Music will be provided at the start of the week.

Wind Chamber Music

Quentin Poole and Atéa Quintet | Session 3
Open to all modern wind players and pianists for daily coaching in organised ensembles; repertoire will be suggested in advance. Pre-formed groups are also welcome.

This course will be organised as a formal chamber music session; please see the Chamber Music page for relevant details.

Middle Eastern Music and Song

Jon Banks and Merit Ariane | session 4
Merit and Jon will teach you to sing and play a wide range of repertoire from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and ancient Andalusia. You’ll learn about performance conventions and styles, and gain an insight into modes, rhythms, ornamentation and improvisation. We’ll also explore the connections between Middle Eastern and Western music, and apply these ideas to the more-familiar early European repertoire.

Cornetts, Sackbuts and Singers: Renaissance Polyphony

Gawain Glenton and Emily White | Session 4
‘Among the marvellous things I saw and observed in the city of Bologna, nothing gave me greater pleasure than the divine musical ensembles of diverse nuns’ Giacomo Vincenti (1606)

A course for singers and instrumentalists – sackbuts, cornetts, strings, Renaissance and early Baroque wind instruments – using the historic doubling of voices with instruments. We’ll be looking at the Vespers by one of the most famous women in Europe, the Venetian composer Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, and at music dedicated to nuns in 17th-century Italy. Vocal range is SATB – men are very welcome!

Singers of all voice ranges are suitable, but the confidence to sing one to a part may be an advantage; instrumentalists may be asked to play in a range of clefs. The course will culminate in a private informal play-through during the final class.

Wind Workshop

Atéa Quintet | session 4
The dynamic Atéa Quintet offer an ensemble wind Session, suitable for players of all abilities. Working on technique and ensemble skills, the course will be flexible to suit the needs of the group and also involve areas such as rhythm and intonation.

Chamber Music

Rhiannon Evans, Claire Williams and Ensemble Meridiana | Sessions 2, 3 & 4
The chamber music programme, open to instrumentalists and singers, will offer one daily formally-organised Session. You will be allocated a group in advance in one of the Sessions you have signed up to: which Session is dependent on how we can best accommodate you with other players. Chamber music can also be arranged informally during other Sessions once you arrive.

See Chamber Music page for more details.

Improvisation, Words and Composition

Advanced Composition: Remembering the Future

Stevie Wishart | session 1 & 2
An Advanced Composition course for composers inspired to write new music for early instruments. Stevie Wishart guides Sessions between composers, tutors and performers throughout the week, examining a broad palate of sounds – including the theorbo, viola da gamba, viola d’amore, hurdy-gurdy, harpsichord, sackbut and cornett – and their notation. From the Middle Ages to the Baroque, performers and composers were expected to collaborate far more actively in the compositional process, through performance practice and improvisation. We’ll aim to perform some of the created music at the end of the week, in the Masterclass Concert.

This is an Advanced Selected course; please click here for application details.

Creative Writing: Collages and Variations

Caroline Bergvall | Sessions 1 & 2
The award-winning French-Norwegian writer Caroline Bergvall is also a multimedia artist and vocal performer, working across artforms and languages. Her work develops through exploring material traces, literary documents and linguistic detail, sites and histories, hidden or forgotten knowledges. Her larger performances are developed with other artists. For this course she proposes to explore old and new forms of textual variations (collage, permutation, alliterations, patterns,..) to create pieces based on change and movement. Caroline will be collaborating with musicians in performance this week.

Creative Writing: Arabic Poetry and History

Tamim al-Barghouti | session 3 & 4
The charismatic Palestinian poet and activist Tamim al-Barghouti returns to Dartington. He’s a dazzling performer and thinker, capable of attracting hundreds of thousands of people to his poetry readings. His creative writing course draws on centuries-old traditions of Arabic poetry, inextricably entwined with the politics and history of the Middle East. Tamim also collaborates with musicians this week.

More than music


Justin Dalton | 7.45-8.30AM
This course, based on the gentle, fluid Scaravelli approach to yoga, is suitable for participants of all ages and abilities. Yoga is practised by many musicians; it’s a great way to loosen up the body before the day’s music making.

This session will take place in a carpeted room, but you are welcome to bring your own yoga mat to the practice.