The tradition of Madrigal dinners extends far beyond Northwestern. For many decades, across the United States, high school and college ensembles put together this delightful evening, and Northwestern produces the event every four years.
This weekend, the Heritage Singers are hosting a Madrigal Dinner, one of these exciting events, is being hosted by the Heritage Singers on Jan. 22 and 23 in the Black Box at 7:30pm.
The goal of a typical Madrigal Dinner is to imitate a medieval palace banquet in the court of a castle with a meal and Renaissance entertainment. This year, the Heritage Singers will perform a traditional English masque titled, “The Sorry Tellers or Once Upon a Whine,” which was directed by Karen Barker. Following the play, the choir will perform several madrigal pieces. During the dinner and desert, guests will be entertained by a magic show and small-ensemble performances by members of the choir. Barker asserts that the evening will be “genuine fun” which she considers “no small thing” in the larger context of this year.
Barker retired from the theatre department after a long and successful career at Northwestern, but this year Holm asked her to return to direct the madrigal’s masque which the choir ensemble has been rehearsing since last semester.
In the beginnings of the process, the ensemble rehearsed for an hour twice a week, but now that the performance is almost here, the ensemble has been working long hours to get everything just right or “build to excellence” as Holm says. While the focus of the Madrigal Dinner is different than the theater Barker produced in her time at NW, she has truly enjoyed the process.
“It’s been great to have something creative to work on,” Barker said.
This year’s masque revolves around a jester (split into two parts for NW’s production) who must prove their talent in a story telling contest held by the King’s court. Junior Elizabeth Ven Huizen, who plays one half of the Jester, explains that the script is very “goofy and fast-paced” which she loves. Ven Huizen also explains that the show will contain COVID-19 friendly interactions with the audience, which they should be looking forward to.
One of the ensemble’s favorite parts of the production process, however, has been working with Barker.
“[Karen] has been the most caring, patient, and all-around lovely person to work with,” said freshman Jessica Nibbelink who plays the guard and royal ranker in the masque. “Her excitement and energy often mirrors ours during practice, and she has been so encouraging to have as a director.”
Ven Huizen concurs stating, “Karen is a gem. I love her and her spirit and expertise.”
In turn, Barker commends her cast with sincerity, “My greatest joy in the process has been getting to know the students. They’ve been so committed and so energetic about it.”
Audiences should be incredibly entertained by the variety of the night.
Holm said to “Be prepared for great food, a lot of humor, fun costumes, a very nice atmosphere in the Black Box and some wonderful music.”
Tickets for the evening went on sale in December and have now sold out, but students can support the Heritage Singers by attending their other events this semester like their upcoming concert with the Sioux County Oratorio Chorus in April.