International Singing Week 2024

Ávila, Spain

14 – 21 July  2024

Glorious Venice

The Evolution of the Venetian Style


Directed by Rupert Damerell


From Willaert to Gabrieli

In this course we will trace the development of the Renaissance Venetian style which came to its zenith with the music of Giovanni Gabrieli. We start with the influential director of St Mark’s, the Flemish composer Adrian Willaert, and trace the development of sacred and secular vocal music during the 16th century.

As the thriving city-state of Venice became a cultural and economic powerhouse in the 16th century, its vibrant music scene flourished alongside it. The rise of the Venetian School of music brought forth a unique style characterized by intricate polyphony, rich harmonies, and grand sonic textures. It was during this time that the music of Venetian composers reached new heights of innovation and complexity.

Adrian Willaert, hailed as one of the pioneers of the Venetian School, played a pivotal role in shaping the musical landscape of the era. Serving as the maestro di cappella at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Willaert not only established himself as a distinguished composer but also as a respected music educator. Under his guidance, a new generation of composers emerged, influenced by his distinctive musical style and teachings.

The sacred music of the Venetian School was deeply rooted in the liturgical traditions of the Church. Composers like Willaert crafted exquisite masses, motets, and sacred madrigals, showcasing their mastery in blending multiple vocal lines with precision and expressiveness. These compositions, often performed in the acoustically resonant spaces of St Mark’s Basilica, enveloped listeners in a divine musical experience.

Alongside their sacred works, Venetian composers also composed secular vocal music that reflected the secular beauty and lavishness of the city-state. The madrigal, a popular form of secular vocal music during the period, allowed composers to explore themes of love, nature, and human emotions. Venetian madrigals were known for their colorful harmonies, vivid word painting, and passionate expressions that captured the essence of the human experience.

Andrea Gabrieli, a student of Willaert and later his successor as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, as would be his nephew Giovanni, expanded upon the foundations laid by his mentor. Gabrieli pushed the boundaries of musical expression by exploring new performance techniques and spatial arrangements. His compositions for multiple choirs and instrumental ensembles were innovative and marked a transition towards the Baroque period.

To fully appreciate the richness and significance of Venetian music, this course delves into the historical context, examining the social, cultural, and political factors that influenced its development. Through a careful study of selected compositions by Willaert, Andrea Gabrieli, and their contemporaries, participants will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the renaissance Venetian style and its lasting impact on the world of music.

So, whether you are a music enthusiast, a student of music history, or simply fascinated by the captivating sounds of the Renaissance, join us on this musical journey as we explore the development of the Venetian style and the remarkable contributions of composers like Adrian Willaert, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli.

Pre-formed ensembles who wish to work together are very welcome.

For this our 11th course, we have the pleasure to welcome back Ensemble Plus Ultra as our distinguished faculty in 2023. The Ensemble Plus Ultra, with their incredible expertise and passion for music, will guide and inspire our students to develop their tools and skills in the art of singing in smaller groups and ensembles.

Led by the renowned director David Martin, Ensemble Plus Ultra brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our program. Their commitment to excellence and unwavering dedication to musical expression have made them leaders in the field. As they return to our course, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from their extraordinary talent once again.

Throughout the course, Ensemble Plus Ultra will work closely with our students, both individually and in pre-formed ensembles, nurturing their talents and fostering a deep understanding of repertoire and performance. Under their guidance, students will have the unique privilege of exploring and refining their own musical voices, strengthening their abilities to collaborate and harmonize with one another.

The experience of singing in smaller groups and ensembles offers a myriad of benefits. It allows musicians to develop a heightened sense of musicality, as each voice contributes to the rich tapestry of sound. Students will learn the art of blending their voices seamlessly, creating a harmonious and balanced ensemble sound that captivates audiences.

This course will be an immersive journey into the realm of ensemble singing, offering a holistic approach that encompasses vocal technique, interpretation, and stage presence. Ensemble Plus Ultra will share their expertise in vocal production, articulation, and phrasing, enabling students to unlock their full potential as singers. Through collaborative rehearsals and workshops, students will not only refine their technical skills but also deepen their understanding of historical context and stylistic nuances.

We look forward to the transformative experience that Ensemble Plus Ultra will bring to our students. Their return as faculty in our 11th course is a testament to the profound impact they have made on our participants in the past. Together, we will embark on a musical journey of discovery, growth, and artistic expression, fostering a love and appreciation for the power of ensemble singing.


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The week includes various activities in the programme:

Individual vocal technique sessions. Each student should bring a prepared piece to work on applied vocal technique with the teachers on a one to one basis. Members of the pre-formed groups will have group sessions rather than individual classes.

Group vocal technique sessions. These are held with the various teachers, including warmups, posture considerations, breathing, relaxation techniques, etc.

Full choir sessions. The whole group rehearses the polyphonic music programme.

Small groups or “consort” sessions. So that the students become accustomed to singing alone or with just one or two singers per part, within a small group that will work on other works of the period, under the direction of the teachers.

Students that come as pre-formed groups will also be able to work in their own group.

Formal concerts. The group will perform the course repertoire in two concerts at the end of the week.



 Example of a typical day:

09.15 – 10.00  Warm up and group vocal technique

10.00 – 11.30  FULL CHOIR (during which there are individual lessons)

12.00 – 14.00  Consort Groups  (directed by members of  Ensemble Plus Ultra)

16.30 – 18.30  Consort Groups

19.00 – 20.30  FULL CHOIR

At the end of the course, there will be a public concerts

avila cathedral concert 2013

The first session will be Sunday 15 July at 4.30 pm. The course ends on Sunday 21 July at 2:00 pm.

Participants may arrive the previous evening.

In addition to the concerts, the course will have approximately 35 teaching hours.

The course will be held primarily in English. There will be translation into Spanish of the main points in rehearsals.

Student profile:

Choir directors, section leaders and choristers

Level – This course is aimed at experienced, advanced students, with good reading skills

Scores will be sent in advance for prior study.

The course organisers reserve the right of admission to the course.

The course fee is €370.  This fee includes the tuition cost and the scores in digital format. It does not include board and lodging. See below for more information in this respect.

Alonso Lobo  “Kyrie de la Misa Maria Magdalene”. Curso 2017 dirigido por Rupert Damerell


The course will take place in Avila, at the Colegio Mayor Magistral Honcala,    very close to the historic city centre. A former Seminary, now it is used as a university hall of residence, boasting all the facilities – teaching rooms, dining room, wifi throughout, recently refurbished sleeping areas, parking, etc.

There is full board accommodation in the Hall for those course students who wish it. The grounds have fine gardens and shady areas also to enjoy in family if you would like to come accompanied. In addition, it is very close to the centre of the city, with the historic and cultural heritage that this city enjoys. Ávila boasts a wide variety of hotels and other accommodation available to participants.

The participants do not have to reserve the lodging in the residence directly, in the case of staying there. The organisation of the course already has a block booking of rooms to allocate to the students who would like them. The lodging is paid directly to the residence and the price for full board is 54,04 euros/ day per person in a single room, and 51,68 euros/ day per person sharing a double room (2023 rates)

The dates for registration and matriculation are the following:

Registration: From 1 November 2023

The pre-registrations received will be evaluated by the Musical Director and applicants will be informed of their admission to the project. The organisation may request an audition or a voice recording from candidates.

Sending of scores. Once an application has been accepted, and deposit paid, scores will be sent digitally (from about February)

There is a limit of places. The organisation reserves the right to admit students and the right to change or cancel the programme due to force majeur.

For any queries, please contact by email to


Please contact us at for more information


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