As featured in The Times Top 50 Holidays in Spain


Sierra Nevada Mountains

Alpujarra Cello School

with Bernard Gregor Smith & Helen Downham


24 – 31 October 2020

Welcome to our new Cello School in the Alpujarra region of Andalucia.

Pack up your Allemandes, your Sarabandes and Bourrées, your Schumanns, Dvořáks and Saint-Saëns, your Don Quixotes and Rococo Variations, your Debussys and Kodálys… Make your way to the mountains near Granada for an unforgettable week of music-making in the company of other cellists. Your tutors will be Bernard Gregor Smith, founder member of the Lindsay String Quartet, and co-teacher Helen Downham.


This week will be ideal for you if you play the cello to Grade 8 + standard, and would like to work on technique, specific repertoire and interpretation in an inspiring environment.


The week’s programme will include individual tuition, masterclasses, practice time, cello ensemble playing, rehearsing with an accompanist and even music-making in the local bar. And of course, a concert by students and teachers with a party on the final evening.


In addition there will be time to explore the Alpujarra and to visit the historic city of Granada.


The Cello School is based at Casa Ana, a guest house and creative retreat centre in the peaceful Alpujarra village of Ferreirola. Casa Ana is known for its stylish and comfortable accommodation, fabulous cooking and stunning views of the Trevelez river gorge and the mountains beyond.


"You'll not find a more seductive or glorious place to practice, study and play the cello in all of Spain"

Glyn P, composer and cellist, Nov 19

Bernard Gregor Smith

Bernard is a renowned cellist and founder member of the Lindsay String Quartet with whom he spent over forty years giving concerts throughout the world. Bernard has been involved in creating a hundred timeless recordings, including the full cycle of Beethoven quartets, recorded on two occasions, twenty years apart. In 2005, after the Lindsays ceased performing, Bernard joined the Dante Quartet and in his seven years with them continued to give concerts and make critically acclaimed recordings.


One of Bernard’s wishes had always been to diversify musically, playing Jazz and Latin music. To this end in 2004, he co-founded the jazz-based group Eclectica. They gave their debut at Ronnie Scott’s and made a number of innovative records.


Bernard started teaching as a junior professor whilst still a student. He went on to teach at Keele, Sheffield and Manchester Universities, and subsequently at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He has also taught on a number of cello schools, in Italy, France and England.


Whilst Bernard now lives increasingly immersed in the musical community of the Alpujarra, he continues as a major figure in the world of chamber music, as a performer, teacher and adjudicator.

Helen Downham

Helen is a prize-winning freelance cellist working in many genres as a soloist, orchestral and ensemble player and teacher. She studied with Bernard Gregor Smith at the University of Manchester where she co-founded the Rivoli String Quartet. The quartet went on to study with Peter Cropper, leader of the Lindsay Quartet, and won several international prizes.


Her performing life has taken her from concerto performances to work with the CBSO, London Philharmonic and Welsh National Opera to West End shows including Aladdin and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and to performing with artists such as Dionne Warwick, Steve Hackett of Genesis and Madness, often including appearances on TV.


She has also worked for over 15 years as a teacher and coach, in schools, colleges and with youth orchestras. Since 2007 she has been a teacher at the Oxford Cello School.

A typical day

A typical day could include:

9.00     Breakfast

9.30     Individual tuition with Bernard Gregor Smith or Helen Downham

11.00   Break for tea and coffee

11.30   Individual practice

1.00     Leisure time

1.30     Lunch

2.30     Free time for exploring the local villages, walking in the hills, individual practice or cello

            ensemble playing

6.00     Masterclass

7.30     Dinner

8.30     Informal music-making, with resident pianist


Two optional excursions are on offer during the week:


A day in Granada: a guided stroll through the historic Moorish city including its Arab quarter with stunning views of the Alhambra palace, silk market, 1000-year-old city walls and more. With lunch in a Granada restaurant.


An afternoon in the white villages of the Alpujarra: an opportunity to explore some of the local villages, with their jumbles of flat-roofed houses, winding lanes, cafes, bars and shops, and their magnificent views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Why the Alpujarra?

La Alpujarra is the name given to the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalucia. Mid-way between Granada and the Mediterranean, the area is famous for its Moorish villages, and terraced hillsides. You can spend hours meandering through ancient meadows and groves of chestnut and almond. The landscape is scored by deep, dramatic gorges and crowned by the snow-capped peaks of the high Sierra.


Bernard was captivated from the first moment by this wild and inspiring place. He left the craziness of “clocks and cameras, parking tickets and queues” for the peace and beauty of the Alpujarra, which he made his home. We hope it will inspire you too.

Prices and applications

NB. All rooms are priced for single occupancy and private bathrooms.

Single room: €995

Standard double or twin-bedded room: €1095

Large double room: €1195


SPECIAL OFFER: €50 off the price of a single or standard room if you are willing to share a bathroom with one other guest (subject to availability)


Prices include:

Room, breakfasts, lunches, 5 dinners including wine, tea and coffee, tuition, use of facilities including free WIFI


Prices do not include:

Flights, airport transfers, excursions (these are optional)

NB. Places are strictly limited so early booking is strongly advised.

Click here for application form

For further information: email Anne at Casa Ana


Casa Ana Gardens
Poppy fields
Fox face
Sierra Nevadas
Poppy fields
Fox face
Sierra Nevadas