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Home » 2015 courses, Music and Singing

Gospel Acappella : Tony Backhouse : 20 – 27 June 2015

This course is confirmed.

This singing retreat will be a week of pure joy as you plunge into the uplifting world of a cappella gospel singing. You’ll also visit some of the local villages: there is a rich tradition of church choirs in Fiji and you will be able to enjoy their magnificent singing and join in with them.


Costs and Booking

AUD $1950 twin share

Single room: $2300
Non-singing partners: $1075

Contact us with any questions, or make a booking here.
(02) 8094 1613 or email


Tony leads Cafe of The Gates of Salvation

Tony Backhouse is one of the leaders in the Sydney a cappella movement. He directed the Café of the Gate of Salvation gospel choir for 21 years and has led male trio the Heavenly Lights since 1996. He works with the passionate and exciting African-American repertoire, focusing on spirituals, gospel songs old and new, and choral and quartet styles. The emphasis is on harmony, collective improvisation and freedom of expression. No music-reading skills are required, and you may tape the sessions.

Each morning starts with a series of warm-up exercises to get the body and the voice relaxed – and the emotions soon follow. The singers laugh and hum and move around, and soon their spirits soar … and now Margie Welsford who came to one of Tony’s courses in Fiji will tell you the rest:

Tony Backhouse Gospel singing Daku Resort Fiji

“Tony is a weaver of magic. He can sculpt a disparate group of people with mostly average voices into a choir that makes beautiful music. I have done workshops with Tony before but nothing prepared me for the pleasure, sense of achievement and sheer joy of working up a repertoire of songs over 6 days that culminated in a performance for the locals of Savusavu.

After warming up our vocal chords and facial muscles every day with silly noises and embarrassing facial expressions we would get singing. Everyone would sing through the parts before Tony gathered them together. Then once we had the notes and words correct we would play around a little and add some movement and clapping. As well as gospel songs in English we learnt a Fijian hymn with resident Fijians helping us learn the pronunciation, and a Samoan song written by Tony.


We were blessed with a great bunch of people on the course who enjoyed singing and laughing together. Whether travelling through town on a bus or dining in the local restaurant, if someone started us up we would sing with all our might. In the small gaps between songs we would eat, snorkel or lie by the pool. It was a tough week.

Gospel Acappella Retreat - Tony Backhouse

I loved trying to sing in Fijian with the Yaroi church choir, while struggling to read the unfamiliar musical notation. The Fijians sandwiched us in so close to them that we could “feel” the music through our skin and not just through our ears.

When we visited Vivili we witnessed a community that sing and dance as naturally as they breathe. What a privilege to see and hear them perform.

Elena Parashko in Fiji Daku Resort

During my time in Fiji, waking or sleeping, walking or diving, the music was constantly with me- like a balm to the soul. We achieved something special and unforgettable in our time together. Thank you to Tony for having his way with us and to Daku for providing food, drink and care to sustain us for the journey.


Singing in Paradise surpassed all expectations. One of the phrases still permeating my dreaming and waking is: “I feel love Divine” In the joy of making such a beautiful sound with a bunch of other Aussies and Americans, I have come close to experiencing this.”

Tony Backhouse Daku resort FijiTony Backhouse is a singer, composer, vocal arranger, musical director, workshop leader and author, Tony has been running vocal workshops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France and the UK since 1987. In his previous pre-a cappella life, he took a B.A. (English) and B.Mus. (Composition) at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He played guitar and sung in many notable bands in New Zealand including Mammal (who recorded one LP with poet Sam Hunt) and the Crocodiles, who won three NZ Recording Industry Awards in 1980). Moving to Australia in 1981, Tony sang and played with Renée Geyer, Joe Walsh, Jenny Morris, the Umbrellas and Jump Back Jack, and arranged and recorded backing vocals for Harry Manx, Dave Dobbyn, Tim Finn, Vince Jones and Kate Ceberano.


The week is structured around daily morning workshops, with afternoons for visits to sing with local choirs, and time for local excursions. We have fantastic coral reefs for snorkelling, beautiful rain forests for hiking and Savusavu town just down the road where you can poke around and get to know the friendly locals. The programme may change a bit depending on what the group wants and on the weather.

Saturday 20 June
Fly to Savusavu.

Sunday 21 June
10.00am – 12.30pm: Introductory session
1.00pm: Poolside lunch.
2.00pm: Coconut demonstration
Afternoon free for swimming, snorkeling, relaxing; option to visit local church to hear choir.
6.30pm: Pre-dinner drinks. Dinner.

Daku Resort swimming pool 0168

Monday 22 June
9.30am – 12.30pm: Workshop
1.00pm: Lunch
Afternoon: Visit to Savusavu town, visiting the geothermal hot springs, the local market and the shops.
7.00pm: Dinner and informal singing.

Chillies in the market in Savuvsavu

Chillies in the market in Savuvsavu

Tuesday 23 June
9.30am – 12.30pm: Workshop
1.00pm: Lunch
Afternoon: Visit to local village with church choir
7.00pm: Dinner


Urata church choir

Wednesday 24 June
9.30am – 12.30pm: Workshop
1.30pm – 3.30pm: Picnic lunch and beach outing
7.00pm: Dinner and informal singing.

At the beach

Thursday 25 June
9.30am – 12.30pm: Workshop
1.00pm: Lunch
3.00pm – 5.00pm: Singing in local village
7.00pm: Dinner and informal singing.



Friday 26 June
9.30am – 12.30pm: Workshop: Final session
1.00pm: Lunch
Afternoon Free time. Options for private tours, relaxing.
6.00pm – 7.00pm: Dinner Concert and party.

Savusavu Harbour

Savusavu Harbour

Saturday 27 June
Return to Nadi and on home.

Program Includes

Return airport transfers from Savusavu to Daku Resort.
7 nights accommodation at Daku Resort in traditional bures with private facilities.
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are provided.
Course fees
Lectures and excursions as indicated.

Program Excludes

Flights to Savusavu. We are happy to quote on these and book them for you if requested. Flight prices fluctuate according to demand.
Comprehensive Travel Insurance.
Optional activities not listed on the program.
Costs of a personal nature such as laundry, massages, private trips.
Meals taken in transit at the airport.

Please contact us with any questions, or go straight to our booking form if you would like to book.