Mandolin & Voice Retreat (& concert)

Kenwood Hall Hotel, Sheffield
3rd-5th November 2017

~ booking form ~

The Mandolin Retreat at Kenwood Hall in October 2016 was such a lovely experience, it was hard to imagine choosing a different venue for the following year – so I didn’t! The video to the right is from Kenwood Hall last year.

This year, Hilary James will be running a voice workshop as well (not in the same room). We’ve done similar joint ventures before and ‘married’ the two groups in the final session; so far, Beethoven’s 9th has been a little too adventurous, but it’s been huge fun. The next video down captures the flavour of last January’s meet at Halsway Manor, Somerset. If you’re a singer, you may wish to read the course description on Hilary James’ website.

Mandolinists may like to listen to Phil Nixon, an experienced bass guitarist, talking with Bill Buckley on Radio Berkshire about becoming a beginner mandolinist at last year’s Kenwood Hall Mandolin Retreat…

Phil Nixon interview (4 minutes)

Read on for more information about the mandolin workshop, or go straight to the booking form if you prefer.

Hope to see you in Sheffield!



What will I learn?

My preference is to teach through tunes, discussing matters of technique as they crop up. I’ll be covering basic right and left hand positions, tremolo, position shifts, playing in closed positions, use of the plectrum and tone production, improvisation, and no doubt much more. My aim is to de-mystify the mandolin as much as possible, whether that be finding your way around the neck, or understanding some of that dreaded music theory!

The weekend will also be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to learn to play as an ensemble. So while some tunes will be melody only, some will be arranged in parts specifically for ensemble playing; I always try to make one part very simple so the less experienced players will still be able to contribute.

Music (in both standard notation and tablature) and MP3 sample files will be sent out well in advance so you can acquaint yourself with the tunes. Don’t in any way think that you need to learn them all note-perfect before you come. Above all, the weekend is meant to be a fun, relaxing time, and the amount of preparation you put in is entirely up to you – there will be no exam! Having said that, at other workshops I’ve hosted we’ve all been delighted at what a great sounding mandolin orchestra we’ve had by the Sunday afternoon.

Kenwood Hall Hotel

The approach will not be geared to any one musical genre; I’ll be trying to make it as general as possible. And by the way, I’m very happy for you to make audio recordings of the sessions.

How good do I have to be to attend?

The course is open to players of any level, but it does help if you have a reasonable knowledge of how to read either mandolin tablature (easy) or standard music notation (a steeper learning curve). Recent workshops I have hosted have attracted some very good players alongside people who have only been playing for a couple of months. It has been quite heartening to see the less experienced rise to the occasion, buoyed by the group experience.

The Venue

The Kenwood Hall Hotel offers extremely comfortable 4-star accommodation and is set in an oasis of beautifully landscaped grounds just south of the city centre in the rather grand suburb of Nether Edge.

The hotel provides full board and unlimited coffee, tea and soft drinks during the day. The kitchen will cater for any special dietary needs (let them know in advance). Apart from overdosing on the mandolin, you’ll also have access to the hotel’s leisure facilities (swimming pool, sauna etc). There is full disabled access.

Other instruments?

If you also play any other instruments from the mandolin family (mandola, mandocello, octave mandolin, luito cantabile – or even mandobass) please bring them too. The ensemble playing in previous workshops has benefited hugely from the inclusion of some of the mandolin’s lower-pitched relatives.

Please contact me in advance if you’d like the music in bass clef or transposing tablature.

Kenwood Hall Hotel

What do I need to bring?

Apart from your mandolin and a music stand, it would be a good idea to carry some spare strings and plectrums. Remember your swimming costume if you want a dip in the pool.

Simon Mayor & Hilary James – Saturday night concert

Hilary James and I will be playing a public concert on the Saturday evening at the hotel. Entrance is free to those attending the workshop.

Bookings & fee

The fee for the weekend is £415.

This includes all tuition, entrance to the Saturday evening ‘Simon Mayor & Hilary James’ concert, full board from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon (breakfast, buffet lunch, three course evening meal, unlimited coffee, tea and soft drinks during the day) and use of the hotel’s spa facilities.

Please use the booking form to secure your place (numbers will be limited).
We ask for a non-refundable deposit of £240 to secure your hotel room and place, with the outstanding balance of £175 payable one month ahead of the event.

If you’ll be attending as a couple and sharing a room with another participating mandolinist or singer, please ask for a special rate.

If you’d like to bring a spouse or friend who will be sharing your room but not attending the course, please let us know that person’s meal requirements (lunch? dinner?) and we can quote a special rate.

The hotel also has family rooms subject to availability.

You can use the contact form or telephone 0118 926 8615.