Village Harmony

What is Village Harmony Camp?

Concert ends, 2010

Twenty-three mostly barefoot teenagers grab at each others’ hands and bow, sweaty and tired, intensely pleased with themselves. They grin broadly as New Englanders of every age rise to their feet in the old wooden church building, applauding, whistling, ululating. A note is sounded above the din and the young singers launch into a South African dance song, stilling the crowd long enough to allow them to make their way down the aisles to take a final ovation from the back of the building.

As the young people, unleashed, dive into the crowd or escape outside, you remain rooted in your pew a bit longer, shaken to the core by what you’ve just witnessed. Where did that conviction come from, that powerful centered sound you never expected to hear from an amateur—let alone a teenage—choir. Look around; other moist eyes and stunned expressions tell you that you aren’t the only one who sensed that something life-changing has just happened among the singers—and has been shared with the audience.

This scenario is played out with up to a dozen groups–teens, adults, mixed ages–each summer.

About Village Harmony

Village Harmony Camps are non-auditioned, inclusive programs for people who love singing together. Since 1990 the teen & adult singers of Village Harmony camps have been traveling and performing throughout New England and an ever-widening swath of the globe, participating in cultural exchanges and delighting audiences with their heart-felt renditions of traditional harmony singing from around the world.

Each camp has three music leaders, including native teachers who bring first hand expertise in particular traditions.

Our basic model for each camp session, regardless of location, is the same. We begin with an intensive residential rehearsal week where singers get to know one another and learn a concert program. We place tremendous emphasis on authenticity, understanding the spirit and vocal style of each genre, and appreciating the joy of singing together and with conviction.

Within this rigorous structure camp groups are nonetheless very relaxed and non-competitive, with a deliberately democratic atmosphere. The framework of each residency is communal, with everyone helping to cook and clean.

The shorter residential camps wrap up with one or two concerts close by. But for participants in the traveling camp sessions the adventure is just beginning: everyone and everything gets packed up as the group embarks upon a one- to two-week-long concert tour.

We are committed to making Village Harmony programs accessible by keeping expenses and tuition fees as low as possible, and we offer generous financial aid. In recent years we have greatly expanded our scholarship program for low income students in our teen camps, as well as offering full support to students from eastern Europe and South Africa to come to the US to participate in our teen traveling camps.

The rehearsal week

will-dancingRehearsals are focused and intense, usually six or more hours each day, with voice coaching and instrumental work between the group sessions. Written music is distributed as appropriate, but many songs are taught solely by ear, and virtually everything is taught by example.

Emphasis is placed on authenticity, not just on replication. Above all we strive for total conviction, and singing with joy. Intense as the days are, Village Harmony groups tend to be extremely relaxed, non-competitive and democratic in nature. The supportive and inclusive community at our camps is such that no one is afraid to give their all in performance and sing from the deepest place in their hearts.

The concert tour

UK posters on corkboardThe shorter residential sessions wrap up with one or two concerts on their final weekend. The teen and international traveling camps, however, launch into concert tours following their rehearsal weeks, performing in small-town community halls, in village churches, at folk festivals. We make a point of meeting up and collaborating with local folk musicians, especially overseas.

With their seemingly easy command of phenomenally varied singing styles and infectiously joyous stage presence, Village Harmony ensembles always knock people’s socks off.

Who can attend?

Village Harmony teen camps are open to ages 12-18. Our low-priced “alumni” camp (and you don’t have to be a VH alumnus) is primarily for college students and young adults between the ages of 19-26. All of our non-US camps are mixed age, open to both teen and adult singers. Unlike choirs where the aim is to have a membership whose voices blend seamlessly, Village Harmony is composed of ad-hoc, non-auditioned, inclusive groups whose basic demand of would-be members is that they be committed to making good music and not hold back.

Auditions aren’t required to attend Village Harmony camps or workshops. We ask all teen applicants, and adults applying to one of our overseas traveling camps, to all of the teen camps, to write a short narrative telling us about their singing background and their reasons for applying to Village Harmony as part of the application process.

Regardless of whether one attends a shorter residential camp or one of the traveling ones, the intense immersion in new repertoires and the many challenges of preparing for the concert performances is exhilarating for all involved.

2020 locations

In 2020 we are holding US-based summer programs for teens and adults in New England, Oregon and Kentucky.

Our non-US summer camps for mixed-age groups (ie, both teens and adult attend) will be in Corsica, Lithuania, South Africa, the Republic of Georgia and Italy.

In other years we’ve held programs in Quebec, Macedonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Estonia, Russia, Ghana, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Germany.