Georgia Camp

Georgia Camp (13 Days) 

Aug 19-31 2018 - Cost is $1800 CAD

Date: August 19-31 2018
Venue: Sighnaghi, Republic of Georgia  
Leaders: Ketevan Mindorashvili,  Zedashe Ensemble,  Patty Cuyler and Karla Mundy 
Price: $1800 CAD (covers in country costs and pre-trip study, does not cover airfare)

***There are two spots open in the Georgia camp!!

Join us for an exciting 2 week adventure in the Republic of Georgia, a small mountainous country about the size of New Brunswick between the Black and Caspian Seas. A collaboration between Village Harmony and SongRoutes - this trip will be a combination of intensive music study, dance classes, performances, sightseeing, hiking, wine tasting and feasting! An  amazing opportunity to experience the rich music, culture, history, tradition and people of Georgia.

Georgia has what is arguably one of the world’s most ancient—and exciting—polyphonic singing traditions. Georgian polyphony has a dark, sonorous vocal quality, un-tempered intervals and striking harmonic convergences unlike anything in European music.

In this camp we will learn songs from a variety of Georgian genres but with specific focus on the highly melismatic and improvisational folk songs of K’akheti region.

The first nine days of this two-week long camp will be based in Sighnaghi, Kakheti, a historic walled hill-town with a breathtaking view of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus Mountains about 1-1/2 hours’ drive east of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.

Housing and rehearsals will take place in Village Harmony’s “own” retreat center—two lovingly-renovated 2-story houses on a side street near the historic center of town, amidst winding cobbled streets and hillsides flecked with persimmon, walnut, fig and pomegranate trees.

Participants will work on tuning, ornamentation and vocal projection under the instruction of Ensemble Zedashe director Ketevan Mindorashvili. Long-time Zedashe member Tamila Sulkhanishvili will teach the group a set of east Georgian Orthodox chants. And daily instruction in Georgian dance will be led by choreographer Vano Chincharauli. Instrumental instruction (panduri, chonguri, drum) will also be offered.

In addition, camp director Karla Mundy will teach the group a set of other world music songs to add variety to our concert program, and Patty Cuyler of Village Harmony—on hand as tour manager—will teach us a song or two from Corsica, a genre well-beloved by the Georgians. Karla will work with the group before the trip (with several meet-ups in Vancouver for those who can make it - for those who can’t there will be music and tracks provided for some pre-trip study) and we will hold some rehearsals in Sighnaghi. With approximately 24 singers, we will form an intimate singing ensemble.

During the workshop in Sighnaghi, there will be ample time each day to explore our host town, and we will also take a number of group outings throughout the region, visiting the ancient cave-dwellings of Davit Gareji, wineries, a breadmaking class and several supras (Georgian feasts)

Following our nine intensive days of study and performance in eastern Georgia we will take off for four final days of sightseeing in the center of the country. We will begin with a four-hour morning drive through Tbilisi and on to the mountain resort town of Borjomi, where we will have the afternoon free to explore the Mineral Water Park and a bit of the vast national park. We will stay that night at The Golden Tulip Borjomi Hotel, an elegant four-star boutique hotel housed in a historic 19th c. monument. We will leave after lunch the next day for a short visit to the castle museum in Akhaltsikhe before spending several mesmerizing late-afternoon hours exploring the ruins of the famous 12th-century cave city and monastery at Vardzia. That night we will stay in a well-appointed family hostel in the foothills 4 miles away from the cave city.

Our return trip to Tbilisi the next day will be leisurely, as we stop en route to visit the caves at Uplitsikhe and the city of Gori with its somewhat creepy but must-see museum dedicated to native son Joseph Stalin. We will arrive back in Tbilisi in the early evening, checking into a lovely hostel located beneath the 4th-century Narikala Fortress in the old city before heading off for dinner on our own and a night exploring the town. We will spend the next day in Georgia wandering about enjoying the city, ending with one final supra shared with members of Zedashe Ensemble. Most of us will head back to Vancouver early the following morning.


Faculty and Venue

Ketevan Mindorashvili

Founder and director of the Zedashe EnsembleKetevan Mindorashvili was born in Sighnaghi and raised in a traditional singing family. Keto showed a gift for singing since childhood and continued to study music technique extensively in university. She devoted herself to preserving traditions on the brink of disappearance, and has become known as a singer and a teacher of Georgian folk music, particularly the fluid ornamentation of eastern folk songs. She has a deep knowledge of ancient church chant, and is a master of the panduri, the three-stringed lute from the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti. Keto has searched valleys and mountains for ancient polyphony, collecting folk songs and chants, as well as writing her own music within the tradition. Today she hosts students from all over the world in her native Sighnaghi and travels internationally leading tours of Zedashe and teaching workshops. She has appeared on all Zedashe recordings to date, and has participated in numerous tours to the United States, United Kingdom, and throughout Europe.

Ketevan has been teaching Village Harmony groups in Georgia (and in Corsica in 2014) since 2003. She is married to an American-born painter, John Wurdeman, who has become the primary organizer for Village Harmony’s Georgia programs. John first came to Georgia in 1995 in search of singers that practiced the ancient art of Georgian polyphony.  In 1996 John purchased a house in Sighnaghi, Georgia, a town famous for the arts with beautiful views and in the center of the wine region.  In 1998 John moved to Sighnaghi to live full time. As a world-renowned vintner and restaurant owner as well as a painter, John divides his time between his main passions – wine, food and art – and finds the three go quite well together. He lives in Sighnaghi with Ketevan and their two children, Lazare and Gvantsa.

Zedashe Ensemble

Zedashe Ensemble, directed by Ketevan Mindorashvili, was founded in the mid-1990s to sing repertoire that had been largely lost during the Communist era. The group is known for their performance of ancient three-part chants from the Orthodox Christian liturgy, folk songs from the Kiziqian region as collected from village song-masters and old publications, and folk dances from the region.

The group’s name is taken from the special earthenware jug, or zedashe, that was buried under the family home for the purpose of making wine. The wine made in the zedashe was intended for the veneration of ancestors and the tapping of the zedasheevery year carried great ritual significance.

For more information, visit their website at

Patty Cuyler

Patty Cuyler, born in California, educated at Princeton University, long-time resident of Vermont and currently living in Chicago, IL, is an energetic, dynamic workshop leader and choral director and is internationally-renowned for her expertise in teaching Corsican, Georgian and South African music. She has been co-director of Village Harmony since 1995 and over the years spear-headed the expansion of the organization’s reach into the four corners of the globe.

Patty co-leads the community world music choir Boston Harmony (which she founded in 2005) as well as the Brooklyn World Music Chorus (since 2012)—both of which she commutes by air to conduct—and the Chicago World Music Chorus (2013) closer to home.


Karla Mundy

Karla Mundy is a vibrant and soulful vocalist, pianist, arranger and choir leader. Karla directs Rhythm ‘n’ Roots and Harmony Mountain Singers in Vancouver, the Island Soul Choir on Vancouver Island and EarthSounds on Bowen Island. Karla leads harmony singing workshops throughout BC and organizes many singing camps, workshops and singing study trips abroad. Karla has organized several singing trips to Cuba and Asheville, North Carolina and is thrilled to be taking a group overseas to Georgia! She is deeply interested in traditional vocal music from around the world and believes that traveling while studying music is one of the most amazing ways to truly learn about the world.


Sighnaghi, Republic of Georgia

hallway-looking-in-front-doorA medieval fort-town and 19th-century administrative center, Sighnaghi is a beautiful and deceptively quiet hill-town perched at the edge of the lower Caucasus mountains in eastern Georgia.  Sighnaghi is home to ancient Bodbe Monastery, and has long been a hot-bed of cultural activity, renowned as a refuge for artists and artisans of all sorts.

Sighnaghi viewSighnaghi is a compact little town and you can get everywhere you want within the town by foot. In the summertime the town bustles with tourists, but our neighborhood on the hillside facing Tsnori and the Alazani Valley remains a quiet oasis. Stroll around the city walls, follow trails in the forests on the outskirts, take a footpath shortcut to Bodbe Monastery.

We will use the two, 2-story buildings comprising Village Harmony’s ‘retreat center’ in Sighnaghi for lessons, housing and most of our meals while in residence. When we do eat out, however, we will do so in some of the best restaurants in the country! 

While much of Sighnaghi has been renovated during the last decade, with newly-paved roads, real sidewalks and street lamps, our lane is one of the town’s last historic hold-outs. The last bit of road to the houses is unpaved and there are no street lights, so be sure to have a flashlight at hand for the nighttime.