The Sacred Art of Vocal Improvisation

Retreat with Briony Greenhill, Green Huse and Shay Nichols

1-5 November 2017, Santa Cruz hills, California. 

“I will give my soul the time to sing my heart, my sadness, my wholeness, my beauty and fear, my anger.”

As singers, we’re messengers; born with the gift of voice. The art of vocal improvisation strips away layers and reveals the vulnerability and power of your natural, true voice. You sing the deep truths of the moment. When you tap in, it’s spellbinding.

Relaxing into the present, dropping self consciousness – (though we have to move through layers of it to arrive here) – we open to source. It’s a wellspring of inspiration. It heals and enlivens us. It brings life to our creativity. We sing our prayers. We come into the organic self, allowing a nourishing river to flow.

Briony, Shay and Green are three members of The Elements vocal improvisation quintet, who record, perform and heal together; supporting one another with sound.

In this four-day immersive deep-dive into the sacred art of vocal improvisation, we will:

  • Learn tools for collaborative improvisation; weaving sound baskets and skilfully courting emergent music
  • Cultivate our capacity to solo with surrender and skill, moving beyond fear
  • Learn how to improvise with words; quieten the rational mind and let the poetic dreamtime sing
  • Do sound healing together
  • Come into the resonant body and cultivate your authentic, healthy voice
  • Go out onto the land, alone and together, to sing it, to have solo reflection, to sing wild, to sing delicate – to sing outside. (Very safe protected, beautiful forest, small stream, hillside.)

Improvisation is a modality which brings us to our edges, softness, hugeness, fragility and depth. We hold this process and the gradual journey towards wholeness with nurturing forms which create safety and intimacy. People tend to experience this journey as transformational.

Previous participants have said:

“It was deeper than an ayahuasca ceremony; I grew more than in workshops with leading psychologists, and it’s the safest I’ve ever felt in a group.”

“It was epic – and that’s an understatement.”

“You are a master.”

“One of the most powerful experiences of my life! I feel changed on a cellular level!”

“Being bathed in beauty. Being held in love. Being winkled out of a shell. Being birthed into a new world.”

“You made it feel like a womb. Protected, loved, nourished, warm and holding.”

“I felt a real urge to connect with you after hearing wonderful comments about your workshop at Embercombe last summer. Many of the community who were volunteering at the time said, completely independently, that they weren’t really sure what you all were doing, but they had never seen people there grow so much and walk around with such happy joyous faces, oozing magic-ness. And with the amount of amazing courses that go on there I thought that was really special praise!”


Arrive Wednesday evening, 1 November; leave end of the afternoon on Sunday 5 November 2017.

Camp DoubleBear, Santa Cruz Hills; accommodation in dormitory yurts and camping.

3 organic meals a day.

$600 – $800 sliding scale. 

Briony has been gifted a modest bursary fund to help those for whom price is a barrier to access this work. If you would like to receive from or give to this fund, please email

To register, please email with a little bit about yourself; a $100 deposit will be required to reserve your spot.

Limited to 20 participants.

About the facilitators:

Shay Nichols is a recording artist, teacher, and dedicated listener of the natural world.  A graduate of the California Institute of Integral Studies Voice/Sound Healing program and Open Ear Center, Shay developed her own voice work based on principles of sound healing, vocal improvisation, and creative musical exploration. She blends this voice work with the body-centered therapeutic modalities of Hakomi and RCS into a holistic coaching method, helping people find transformation through voice and deep listening. Shay is creating The Natural Music Institute, to foster collaboration between ecologists and musicians to produce recordings inspired by natural environments and to engage the public in efforts to combat global climate change.

Briony Greenhill performs, practices and teaches vocal improvisation for ritual, performance, self-expression and healing. She brings singers into their big aliveness, and teaches regular retreats in the US and UK. She sings with The Elements quintet, who recently released what is possibly the world’s first entirely improvised, five voice album, Listen. She teaches piano and collaborates with a variety of instrumentalists as a pianist and vocalist. Briony co-created the London Vocal Improv Collective and Oakland’s Body Music Lab. She studied with vocal improvisers Bobby McFerrin, Rhiannon and David Eskenazy, pianists Frank Martin and Julie Wolf, as well as with Zimbabwean Shona and Indian Classical musicians, and at the Guildhall Jazz School. Briony Simply Loves improvisation.

Green Huse is a singer, Improviser and Singer Songwriter.  She has been writing and producing her own records since 1998, which include her solo release ‘Multiheaded Heart’ and her album ‘Down That Road’ with the duo Green and Root, which includes songs about the loss of a parent, gay marriage, youth lost to gang violence, and true love.  Her upcoming Album ‘Rise’ is due for release in late 2017. She has studied with famed Improvisors Rhiannon and Joey Blake,  and  Jazz guitarist virtuoso, Mimi Fox.  Her songs and her improvisations combine her love for a good melody with her search for authenticity, truth and poetry.  She and the Elements members have developed their own modes of super satisfying expressive modes, as well as sound healing with voice that cuts through all the static and restores one to wholeness and profound joy.

Shay, Briony and Green have been singing, performing and healing together for five years and share a lifelong devotion to this work.