more workshops, more people, more space

Building on the great success of 2011 we have added more workshops for 2012. Check out the full list

To fit them all into the calendar we have started even earlier this year with our Saxophone Workshop with Andy Scott fully booked.

During the summer we eat on our wonderful south facing terrasse but we knew that if we were starting on April 1st it would be impossible to eat outside and so we would have to build a new dining room.

The only space that we had left in our complex of barns was the area where we stored all our tools and so last November we started a plan to create a new dining room/ second music room in this space.


Our first problem was what to do with everything that was currently in the room. By continually shifting the tools around we eventually installed  beams and laid  chip board  so that we had a first floor to put everything.

At last we had a clear space.

We knew we were on a very tight time line  and by the end of January we had punched through a double door way onto the existing terrasse.

Suddenly the weeks started to fly by and it was the end of February and we wtill didn’t have the walls dry lined.

Working 7 days a week we finally got the room completely finished 2 weeks before the start of the first workshop. It is large enough to seat 20 people and we were delighted when Andy Scott used the space as a second music room.

A great addition to the facilities here.




New for 2012 – Gypsy jazz workshop

We are delighted that Paul Vernon Chester has agreed to run a Gypsy Jazz Workshop for us 13-19 May.

Paul is considered one of the best gypsy jazz guitarists  in the UK and is also well known for his excellent workshops.

It is an irresistable opportunity  for anyone who loves to play  acoustic guitar to learn a very different style which is so suited  to France where it all began!

The workshop isn’t just for beginners, so if you are already a fan of the style and would like to improve, check out the page for more details


2 World premiers for the Saxophone concert

This years Saxophone workshop with Andy Scott looks as if its going to be fantastic. The week is already fully booked with lots of regulars and some new faces as well.
We try to ensure that the week is challenging and different to other saxophone workshops and so this year we have arranged to participate at a concert organised by a local french/english choir- La Chantonge- at Fontenet on 5 April.
The choir has been in existence since 2004 and members are English French and Dutch. Twice yearly they do a series of concerts singing a wide range of material – classical as well as modern in both french and english.
I approached the choir late last year to see if they would be interested in doing a concert with the saxophone group and they were immediately very keen. There were discussion about what music the choir and saxophone could do together when Pauline Gordon a regular at the workshops said that she would like to write a piece specially for a saxophone quartet and choir.
She asked me if I could find a poem in French about the local area that she could use for the text. Initially I thought she had asked the impossible, but after searching on the internet I came across a web site in french where people could upload their poems . The poets are all anonymous using a pseudonym. I stumbled upon a poem written by someone who has logged that they live in the next village. The poem is called Bonjour Le Fleuve and is about the River Charente. It contains a line “La vie est un cadeau” Life is a gift and Pauline and I loved this line and knew it would be ideal.

Pauline composed the piece and it is now being rehearsed by the choir. and I started the search for the poet. I tried contacting them through the web site with no response so went to the local paper who published a piece this week asking for the poet to come forward. I wonder if we will have any success. It would be wonderful if we could invite them to the concert.

Andy Scott will also be premiering his composition La Moreau. This is a piece that he has written for solo saxophone dedicating it to our little village. What a delight.

A compilation recording of the concert will appear on our facebook page.
For anyone looking for a fantastic week playing the saxophone and  interested in coming next year get in touch and we will put your name down and keep you informed of dates etc.

Snow in La Moreau

terraceno trafficIts said that the Charente Maritime is the second sunniest are in France – that may be true but at the moment the sun is shining on 10-15 centimetres of snow. Would look like the Alps if we had any hills!
This area usually benefits from a micro climate and so snow is very rare. For the last week the temperature has rarely got above -5° and the pool is frozen solid and our butternut squashes are having to be thawed before I can cook them.gites
The forecast is for a couple more weeks of sub zero temperatures. Just hope it warms up before our first workshop of the year – Andy Scotts Saxophone workshop- otherwise they will playing playing saxophone with their gloves on!.
la moreauBella has been practising carrying cognac under her chin just in case they get snowed in the music room.

What an act

For the past three years Kev Dempsey has been, with Joe Broughton one of our most popular tutors on their Folk Guitar and Fiddle Workshop.We have loved hearing them play here at Creative Vacances and their jamming sessions late into the night are highlights of the week but we have never had the chance to see Kev play a “proper” concert.

When we were in England recently and saw that Kev was playing a gig on Friday 18 November at the Hinckley Act we couldn’t resist. Kevin would be appearing with the talented accordionist Karen Tweed.

The Hinckley Act has to be one of the most unusual venues in the U.K. Established by chairman Keith London on the premises of his firm Advanced Carbide Tooling the venue provides full stage and seating facilities, plus top quality sound and lighting equipment.

Kev was as good as we imagined. His voice like velvet and his guitar playing sublime and inspirational. It was particularly nice for us that he played and sung Resurrection Jack that he had composed while he was with us in 2010.

Living in France we hear a lot of accordion music and much of it is very bad! Karen played the accordion with such skill and passion that it was a joy to hear and like listening to a completely different instrument.

We passed a really memorable evening at the Hinckley Act. They have a superb programme of concerts scheduled for this year. Check out their web site.


Cognac Blues Festival 3-8 July 2012

The dates for the 2012 Cognac Blues Festival have been announced and we are delighted that the festival will run during the week of our Blues and Beyond Electric Guitar Workshop (1-7 July)  with Richard Perkins.

The headline acts won’t be announced until the spring – keep an eye on the website but over the last 18 years they have attracted many good acts – BB King to Eric Bibb, the Neville Brothers and Seal just to name a few. The beauty of the festival is that there is free live music all day in a variety of bars around the town, as well as the  ticket only headline bands in the evening in the park.  We will aim to get into Cognac on the Wednesday afternoon, which is a free period, to catch some blues and a beer. I’m sure Richard will organise the timetable so we can go in again if people are keen.

There is no doubt that the chance to see some live free  music locally will make the week even more enjoyable.

For more information about the Electric Blues and Beyond guitar workshop please click


Flying in to catch the Blues

A review of the Electric Blues Guitar workshop by Kate Perks

For those guitarists looking for a European holiday with a difference you Electric Blues Guitar workshopdon’t need to leave your guitar at home! An innovative alternative awaits in the countryside of south west France. Situated midway between the towns of Saintes and Cognac Creative Vacances is a music holiday initiative created by hosts Jenny and Chris Trotter.

Students can attend a range of workshops and courses to suit their particular instrument- guitar, saxophone, mandolin, fiddle,  and musical tastes – folk, rock, blues, jazz and combine this with a holiday in one of the most picturesque regions of France.

electric blues workshopThe Charente Maritime area is a location renown for its sea food, cognac  and temperate climate and is easily accessible by air via La Rochelle , or by road or rail from Paris.

I found the website by chance while exploring on line guitar tuition and unable to locate  anything similar in Australia booked myself into the Creative Vacances Electric Blues Workshop in September 2010- a 6 day all inclusive holiday which included tuition , accommodation and full board.

The workshops are generally structured to cater for players from beginner ( with at least 6 months playing experience) to advances level led by tutors who are extremely experienced in their respective fields.

Opting to take the 3 hour train journey from Montparnasse to Saintes I was met by Jenny and Chris and driven the short distance to Bercloux. Their renovated barn and stables provide comfortable self contained accommodation with a separate music room and swimming pool backing onto acres of French farmland. At this time of year the endless fields of sunflowers were just past their full bloom awaiting harvest and I immediately felt the sense of peace and space in this picturesque environment. While accommodation is normally in shared rooms with other players; local B and Bs provide single rooms if preferred. Spouses and partners who don’t play an instrument are also welcome to attend and can spend their days relaxing by the pool or visiting the quaint  nearby villages. These are easily accessible by car or a leisurely walk, providing an opportunity to sample the local French cuisine and lifestyle.

To allow for the inevitable jet lag, I had arrived a few days before the course started. Jenny made sure I had enough food and supplies and I was left to my own devices to catch up on sleep and laze by the pol. At various stages over the weekend another 12 like minded and amiable participants arrived from the UK, Brussels, Germany and Texas. It soon became apparent that through our mutual love of the blues the week ahead was going to be all I had hoped for.

This particular Electric Blues Guitar workshop was tutored by respected guitarists Richard Perkins who runs the Bath Guitar School and Stuart Ryan, Head of Guitar at the Bristol Institute of Modern Music. Both Richard and Stuart combined a sense of fun with learning the guitar techniques, chords, scales, soloing, improvisiation and phrasing. Towards the end of the week we split into groups and prepared songs learned during the tutorials to perform for the others on the last day. These can be seen along with photos on our album page onthe web site.

The near perfect September weather made this exhilarating week even more enjoyable, enabling a late afternoon swim at the end of each day, followed by lively conversation and the consumption of local wines around the dinner table, often into the small hours. A delicious menu had been carefull planned combining tasty , homestyle meals usuing local produce and wines.

On the last day e mails and contact details were exchanged with friendships forged and plans mae for return visits.

Would I go again. In a heart beat- In fact I’m already booked into the Electric Blues Guitar workshop 1-7 July 2012