Berkhamsted Group, Boys, Girls | 10.10.2023

“Engaging minds and hearts” at Year 8 Retreat Day

“Engaging minds and hearts” at Year 8 Retreat Day

If you happened to stroll past Berkhamsted School last Friday, you’d have overheard the harmonic voices of our Year 8 pupils as they were led by The Spirituals Choir in a day of song and solidarity.

On October 6th, our Year 8 pupils gathered at Kings Campus for Retreat Day, an annual event that provides pupils with half a day (boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon) to sing, socialise, and recognise the cathartic relief that music can offer.

Established in 2020 by Junior Garr and Marsha B Morrison, The Spirituals aim to break boundaries in gospel music. As part of their ethos to share the joy of music, The Spirituals now lead workshops across UK schools which our Year 8s were lucky enough to enjoy last week.

Reverend Becky Taylor, Berkhamsted’s Chaplain who coordinated the event, hopes that Retreat Day provided pupils with an opportunity for character development as they utilised the power of music to boost self-esteem and increase resilience.

“The Retreat Day helped pupils to engage not only their voices, hands, and feet in creating music but also their minds and hearts as they learned about the power of storytelling in Gospel Singing. The pupils discovered how the stories of scripture expressed through music have helped people get through the toughest of circumstances” says Becky.

The Spirituals kickstarted the session by asking the pupils which kinds of music they were interested in. From Taylor Swift to Queen, Year 8 relished the opportunity to bond with their peers over their music preferences.

After these initial introductions, it was time to get serious about singing. As part of The Spirituals’ aim to utilise music as a way to guide others through challenging times, Ross- a member of the Spirituals Choir- reminded students of the impact that music can have on their well-being:

“Whether you’re worried about exams, homework, or your future, music has the power to make you feel a lot better about stressful situations. That’s why The Spirituals believe in singing the songs that uplift and encourage us to feel better” Ross told the pupils. This message served as the perfect prerequisite to the first group song, ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley. Through a teamwork challenge that saw each half of the room sing a different part of the song, pupils learned mutual respect for their peers as they coordinated their singing, a skill that will benefit them both inside and outside of the classroom.

The Spirituals had a hard time keeping up with pupils’ song requests with multiple pupils asking The Spirituals if they could learn to sing ‘Wade in the Water’. As Reverend Taylor explains, Wade in the Water is a song that provides pupils with an important message about resilience.

“Year 8’s favourite song was ‘Wade in the Water’, which tells the story of the Exodus and the cry for freedom with lyrics like ‘let my people go!’”

At the start of the session, singing in front of others was an activity that was outside of some pupil’s comfort zones. Luckily, the encouraging atmosphere created by The Spirituals fired up pupils’ self-esteem and by the end of the session, each pupil swayed and sang at the front of the room in a mesmerising choir-style performance.

We’d like to thank Reverend Taylor and The Spirituals for organising such a fantastic Retreat Day which revived our pupil’s teamwork skills and self-confidence at the end of a busy half-term!




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