Urban Refuge: A Musical Daylong Retreat with Betsy Rose


In March 2001 I attended a musical workshop given by singer/songwriter Betsy Rose and absolutely fell in love with her. Betsy explained how the body uses sound to improve emotional and physical health. She taught us therapeutic sounding that frees our bodies to make the sounds we want so we can get in touch with healing and creativity. As Betsy sang and played guitar, I remember feeling a sense of calm and peace wash over me like nothing I’ve ever experienced. She taught us some beautiful songs she composed and by the end of the workshop, I knew I wanted to sing with this woman again.

Betsy told us about her Womansong Circles—monthly participatory singing groups for women that she has been hosting in Berkeley, CA since 1998. Since I live in the South Bay, I asked Betsy if she would consider starting a Womansong Circle in Palo Alto. In January 2002 I hosted the first Womansong Circle South and we’ve continued to enjoy these drop-in “singing afternoons” three times a year since then.

The opportunity to sing without audition, rehearsal or performance is rare and as Betsy often says, we don’t sing enough in our culture. On two occasions, over 50 women showed up to sing for our Womansong Circle. She teaches songs of inner and outer peace, women’s journeys and power, songs about motherhood and sisterhood. We sing chants, rounds, simple harmonies, and improvisation. All voices are welcome, songbooks are provided, and no singing or music reading skills are needed. Betsy likes to say: shy and shower singers are especially welcome.

Retreat Description

For the past few years Betsy has hosted two-day Spring retreats at a Quaker Center near Santa Cruz, CA. This year she’s scheduled day-long retreats instead.

First Retreat

This retreat will be an energizing day of group singing, improvisation, harmonization, breath and sound awareness, spirit renewal through meditation, poetry, sacred song, and hot tubbing.

  • Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010
  • Time: 10 am to 6:30 pm
  • Location: Private home in Berkeley, CA.

For details visit http://www.betsyrosemusic.org/ or call (510) 525-7082.


  1. says

    I love the idea of Womansong Circles! When I was a teenager, my family belonged to a church that didn’t sanction dancing. When we had teen socials, we always ended up sitting around and singing. It was great fun! We sang old favorites like “You Are My Sunshine” and sixties tunes like “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” and “If I Had a Hammer.” There is incredible joy in singing, as you say, without audition, rehearsal or performance. About the only time we do it in our culture is Christmas. I definitely think we need to extend the tradition to other times of the year.