Advancing to our Retreat

The day finally came – the Retreat we had been working towards and looking forward to with so much excitement and anticipation was here !

On 20th May we set off to The Mill House Hotel in Abingdon near Oxford for a full weekend of glorious ‘us’ time with our illustrious coach Rob Mance.

Here’s what our BF members thought

Debbie T

Retreat for me is definitely not going to a ‘quiet or secluded place’ and it’s certainly not ‘moving backwards or withdrawing’

In fact it’s anything but – it’s excellent coaching to a level that you only ever really achieve when you dedicate that amount of quality time.  It’s singing in the bar, sharing stories, making new friends, hatching scratch quartets and for me as Performance Director keeping the energy high through warmups, cool downs and wake-ups in between. I’m not sure which was my favourite this weekend:

The Zorba the Greek melee; our tai-chi tango or the magnificently elegant Cool down to Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise Like A Phoenix ‘. How very post-covid apt!

More than anything though I adore the Talent Show. It always entertains (not always for the right reasons) but this year was outstanding. Baris were particularly hilarious, the Tenors  had a frog chorus, the Basses and Leads led quizzes. Jenny acted and yours truly sang – I entitled the performance ‘Parts I might have played if I didn’t do barbershop’ and kicked off with Sunset Boulevard!

Standing up and warbling with a karaoke backing track should have been terrifying but it felt such a safe place and that’s what retreat is for me. SAFE and SOUND

Debbie P

These days I am quite a seasoned member of Bristol Fashion Chorus – where has that time gone?  The BF retreat in May was a much anticipated event and it took on a whole new meaning to me this time round.  We knew how two days of coaching would feel under the skilful teaching of Rob Mance and the fine directing of our fab MD, Craig Kehoe.  This did not disappoint.  The concentrated hours working on our convention songs really truly brought them off the page into real life, just ready for moulding, shaping and refining.  However, I looked upon this event through different eyes this time around.  It’s easy to take things for granted and I’m sure I’m not the first to say that the pandemic has made us so much more appreciative of the little things in life.  Here’s what I noticed this time on our weekend away together:  Watching friendships form and grow between our longer standing members and our newer members; the laughter and tears that flowed as we made music together and played some (very) silly games!; the bravery of each and every member of the chorus who stood up to the bar and sang alone when requested to do so, safe in the knowledge that they were in a safe place with love and support all around them; the look of pure joy / shock when they realised just what their voices could sound like!  A wonderful picture! This chorus undoubtedly strengthened its bonds during this sunny weekend in May and continues its journey with harmonious friendships, melodic singing and a much greater sense of self belief in ourselves.  So much more than singing!

Jill Stephens

I really look forward our BF retreat, for me it is the highlight of the year. You get to sing without the pressure of competition which means total enjoyment of our barbershop craft. We have been lucky to have top notch coaching too, and loads of technical information, which I love. It is also so nice to relax and just ‘be’ with the rest of the chorus, to chat and have fun, making a close, caring, happy unit —-  even better.

Jenny Wood

Aah, a retreat: a relaxing weekend, lots of quiet thinking time, meditation, walking close to nature, perhaps a bit of pampering – er, no, actually.

Bristol Fashion’s recent retreat weekend was full of activity, singing and fun. We did do a lot of healthy walking, but most of it was around the maze of corridors in our hotel, with the help of a map. Fine once you got used to it and it certainly made you conscious of breathing techniques. Not a keen swimmer, I still felt grateful for the smell of chlorine from the indoor pool: it meant I was near our rehearsal room and could also find my way from there to the restaurant.

The actual rehearsal sessions were lively, interesting and with each one we felt we had gone a step further towards the type of singing we’re aiming for.

Hannah Richmond

After only two months of singing with BF the prospect of retreating with the chorus for a weekend was just a touch daunting however I need not have worried. A perfect weekend of singing, coaching, laughing and time to get to know a super group of warm hearted and supportive people. I left feeling a proper part of the chorus and cannot wait to do it all again. We’re now busily putting all our new skills into practise and building them into our convention 2022 package !


We’re now busily putting all our new skills into practise and building them into our convention 2022 package !


May-June 2022

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