Village Harmony

New England Adult Camp – July 15 – 22 (8 days) – $750

Date: July 15-22, 2016
Venue: Stump Sprouts Retreat Center
Leaders: Brendan Taaffe, Bongani Magatyana, Val Mindel
Price: $750

This 7-day adult residential session will be full of blow-out singing, including an eclectic selection of wonderful American and world-music harmonies. 

Brendan Taaffe will lead a mix of traditional American harmony, his original pieces, and makwayera songs from Zimbabwe. Inspired by the cadences of early American hymnody, Brendan’s compositions are known for their lush harmonies and intricate counterpoint and are popular with choirs throughout the U.S. and the U.K.

Composer-director Bongani Magatyana of Cape Town, South Africa, will return to the US for his third summer co-directing Village Harmony camps. He will lead the group in a brilliant set of South African folk and church songs with authentic dance movements, drawn both from traditional repertoire and his own compositions.

And Val Mindel will teach from her wide repertoire of  American traditional, early and classic country, and bluegrass music, with a focus on ornamentation and phrasing. She will help singers improve their ability to create the buzzy, close-harmony sound that defines the music, and increase their confidence in duet and trio singing and singing lead.

The group will start each day with American folk dances. If people come with instruments, Brendan will lead a contra band to accompany the dancing.  The session will conclude with a Friday night concert in Ashfield, Massachusetts.

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Brendan Taaffe

Brendan-TaaffejpgBRENDAN TAAFFE, based in Brattleboro, has been leading singing workshops around the world since 2004. An active composer, he specializes in American harmony styles and Zimbabwean makwayera style singing. In 2011, Brendan spent a month working with choirs in Zimbabwe to document songs from that tradition. He is a founding member of the Bright Wings Chorus and directs Turtle Dove, an organization that runs singing camps for adults. Brendan is also a multi-instrumentalist on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mbira and holds an M.A. in performance from the Irish World Music Centre at the University of Limerick.




Bongani Magatyana

BONGANI MAGATYANA is a professional singer /music director /composer /theatrical producer living in Gugulethu Township in Cape Town, South Africa.

He was born in Cape Town in a township called Old Crossroads; his father was a self-taught choir conductor in the Old Apostolic Church. Bongani’s father taught him how to read and write tonic solfa music notation at a young age, and young Bongani dreamt of becoming a church choir conductor, too. Today he conducts a 120-voice OAC choir himself, as well as a community male choir.

Bongani’s folk-inspired choral compositions—popular pieces for South Africa’s major choral competitions—are sung by choirs around South Africa and internationally. Currently Bongani teaches at the Zolani Centre in Langa Township, leads an educational musical theatre company, and continues to compose music in a variety of genres, bringing vibrant performances to communities across Cape Town.

Bongani has been teaching with Village Harmony since 2012, co-leading annual study-performance camps and workshops in South Africa, the US and the EU.  A dancer as well as singer, and he is particularly adept at communicating the elusive rhythms of South African songs.




Val Mindel

Val Mindel 2Val Mindel, a veteran teacher at Village Harmony, is a versatile teacher, singer and instrumentalist. She focuses on teaching the mechanics of creating harmonies and arrangements as well as singing in small groups, using early American country, Appalachian, gospel and bluegrass repertory. She lives in southern Vermont and leads adult harmony workshops there and around the country, often with daughter and fellow Village Harmony leader Emily Miller. She was a member of the 1970s string band, Any Old Time, has performed and taught in Hong Kong, Canada, Scotland and England, and was a long-time instructor at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music.


Stump Sprouts Retreat Center

stumpsproutsSituated in rural northwest Massachusetts, Stump Sprouts Retreat Center is a rustic multi-season resort—founded as a cross-country ski resort—and retreat facility. The center of activity is the hand-crafted three-level guest lodge with bedrooms and lounge on the top two floors and kitchen and dining area on the lower level. Our rehearsals take place in the center’s converted dairy barn. And additional bedrooms are just across the lane in the 200 year-old farmhouse. Stump Sprouts is located on 450 acres of woods and meadows, with splendid vistas and hiking trails. The center’s organic gardens that often provide vegetables for our kitchen.