Sacred Choral Course in Guimarães, Portugal

We are delighted to be returning to the stunning Pousada de Santa Marinha, a twelfth-century monastery in the historic town of Guimarães for our 22nd Sacred Choral Course. With original cloisters and set in 18 acres of landscaped gardens with a superb pool, the Pousada is the ideal setting for a great week of music-making, relaxation and discovering the best that this fantastic region has to offer. A healthy combination of music, delicious food and wine and an active social schedule will guarantee a memorable holiday.

Fact File

Our director of music is the dynamic and inspiring conductor Neil Ferris. He is supported by accompanist Michael Higgins and vocal coach Joanna Tomlinson. The course features sacred choral works from ancient to modern for SATB choir and will provide the repertoire for a public concert at the end of the week at a local venue.

The aim of the course is to raise choral singing skills. Rehearsals focus on vocal technique, and during the sessions we work on aspects of tone, blending, breathing and intonation as well as musical interpretation. We also encourage participants to bring material for smaller groups (e.g. madrigals or part-songs) and coaching is offered to individuals and small groups. At the end of the week an informal ‘barbecue concert’ provides an opportunity for these items to be performed for the rest of the group.

All participants are offered a one-to-one singing tutorial with Joanna during the week.

Music is made available in advance of the course via printable downloads and audio files. A rehearsal is scheduled in central London a few weeks before the course to give participants the opportunity to meet one another and sing some of the music.

Helicon Singers in Guimarães, 2017

As well as providing a rewarding singing experience, we aim to give participants the opportunity to enjoy a truly memorable holiday. A typical day will include a morning rehearsal followed by a buffet lunch, after which there will be sectionals or individual voice sessions. Afternoon excursions usually depart at around 3pm and return in time for dinner, with the exception of the excursion to Porto which will return at around 10pm.

On the penultimate evening there is a barbecue with informal performances by participants (optional!) and our final concert is held in a local venue on the last evening.

This region is a treasure trove of historic towns, award-winning wineries and beautiful countryside – not to mention local gastronomic delights. We are very fortunate to be based in the fascinating town of Guimarães, which was European City of culture in 2012. The town boasts a wealth of historic buildings as well as delightful medieval squares and has a lively cultural scene, with art galleries, cafés and boutique shops.

During the week, excursions are planned alongside the musical schedule. We have selected some highlights which we hope will give a taste of the history and culture of this great region.

  • Afternoon and evening to discover the beautiful city of Porto
  • Opportunity to explore the UNESCO World Heritage city of Guimarães, with its charming old town, castle, ducal palace and cable car
  • Visit to the delightful seaside town of Viana do Castelo with its iconic Santuario de Santa Luzia
  • Tour and tasting at the tranquil family vineyard of Quinta da Aveleda

All of the above excursions are included in the price of the course.

Porto

Anyone who has stayed in a Pousada before will know they offer outstanding standards of accommodation, and the Pousada de Guimarães is no exception. Formerly a medieval Augustinian monastery, this Pousada has won awards for its restoration and is now renowned for its combination of luxury and beautifully preserved history and culture.

Set in eighteen acres of private grounds, the Pousada has an abundance of communal spaces – with a plethora of secluded corners in which to relax and unwind. Explore the botanical gardens with its lake, formal garden, cloisters, grotto and granite fountains. Make the most of the stunning swimming pool with views out over the town!

Accommodation at the Pousada is in well-appointed twin and double bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, and is allocated on a room-share basis. If you are coming with a friend, or wish to share a room with someone in particular, please let us know. A limited number of single occupancy rooms (double or twin ensuite) are available for a supplement of £325; if you wish to reserve one, please check with us before booking.

One of the Pousada's comfortable rooms

All meals (except evening meal in Porto) will be prepared by the hotel’s acclaimed chefs and will comprise an extensive buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, and three-course evening meal. The Pousada’s restaurant is renowned for its gourmet cuisine and delicious local specialities.

We are able to cater for most special dietary requirements; please let us know of any on your booking form.

Restaurant at the Pousada

The total cost of the course is £1345 and includes everything except your return flight to Portugal.

What’s included?

  • Seven nights full-board ensuite accommodation
  • All meals (except evening meal in Porto)
  • Excursions and activities
  • Transfer from Porto airport and local transportation (for organised excursions)
  • Tuition and all other course costs
  • Individual singing tutorial

Participants are required to book their own travel to Porto airport, where a coach will collect the group. Please ensure that you arrive at the airport by 2.30pm on Saturday 24th August and that your departure on Saturday 31st August is no earlier than 1.00pm, to coincide with the coach transfer.

Recommended flights (opens in a new window)

If you would prefer to make your own way to Guimarães, there is a direct bus service from Porto airport to Guimarães bus station, which takes around 50 minutes. Alternatively, there is a train from the centre of Porto to Guimarães which takes around 75 minutes. The Pousada is a short taxi ride away from the bus and train stations.

If you wish to bring your own car, parking is available on site. Please let us know in advance and we will supply directions.

To reserve your place, please complete the online booking form and send your deposit to us (£275 per person) within seven days. Your booking confirmation will follow. The balance is required eight weeks before the start of the course.

More information on the booking process, along with payment details, is available here.

Any questions?

Please refer to the Find out more section for booking details, terms and conditions and frequently-asked questions.

We’d love to hear from you, so do contact us or you can request a ringback and we’ll call you as soon as possible.