Concert tour organiser and chorister El Etherington is teaming up with her cousin Jane Kitchen, contributing editor at Spa Business, to launch a retreat company which will deliver the therapeutic benefits of singing – both mental and physical – to spas.
“The documented benefits of singing – and in particular, singing in a group – are profound,” says Etherington, co-founder of Wellness-Sing. She explains that participants can reduce stress, boost their immune system, improve mental alertness and focus, improve posture and build social connections all through the simple act of singing.
Wellness-Sing, which launched in January, will partner with luxury wellness destinations to host the three- to seven-day retreats which will vary in price depending on location. The workshops will include up to four hours of singing a day and introduce a variety of choral techniques, alongside complementary modalities.
“Many of our guests at our pilot retreat who had never had singing instruction before were surprised by how physical it is, and how breathing and muscle control are involved,” says Etherington. “It’s a perfect activity for practising mindfulness… Combining spa time and yoga classes with singing is a natural fit – everyone came out of the weekend feeling refreshed and grounded.”
Wellness-Sing also plans to offer informal lectures and unique, ‘one-off’ experiences based on location – think Scandinavian joiku singing at the top of a hill after a sunrise hike.
Etherington studied vocal arts and community music to masters level, has been a member of choirs all her life and also has experience as a music session leader in a therapeutic environment. For the past 12 years, she has run concert tours across Europe for leading tour consultancy ACFEA.
The genesis for Wellness-Sing came about on a weekend in Riga, Latvia, where Kitchen was writing about pirts, a local sauna tradition, and Etherington was on tour with the UK’s Reading Bach Choir. A weekend spent experiencing both singing and wellness led them to talk about bringing their two worlds together, and Wellness-Sing was born.
Etherington says: “My hope is that these retreats attract not just seasoned singers, but also those who have yet to experience the joy that singing in a group can bring.”
Kitchen adds: “With loneliness on the rise – and new evidence of just how harmful it is to our mental health – a retreat like this has the added benefit of bringing people together to feel like they’re part of a unit. So much of the feedback that we got from our pilot weekend focused on that aspect – the connections made, the new friendships started. That, to me, is the magic.”