Students enjoy food, music at annual Madrigal Dinner

Savannah Sawyer
Staff writer 

Photos by Nate Brelsford/The News

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is right around the corner. What better way to celebrate than attending the Murray State Madrigal Dinner?

Many madrigal dinners have taken place across the country in schools and local theaters during the Christmas season. This is Murray State’s 15th madrigal production.

There are two performances of the event. The performances are from 6 to 8 p.m. today and Saturday at Ordway Hall.

The dinner, typically run by students, imitates the Renaissance era.

“The dinner will include food, fairy tales and madrigal music in the form of a play which reproduces an old English Madrigal Dinner,” William Scarbrough, freshman from Mayfield, Ky., who is a part of the production, said.

Madrigal dinners typically combine food, entertainment and music.

Everything from the music you hear to the food you eat is meant to make you feel like you are taking a trip back in time to the time of the Renaissance.

“The dinner begins with the presentation of the Lords and Ladies of the Court,” Bradley Almquist, director of the event, said. “Each year we choose a ‘Royal Couple.’ This year it is the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, after the Royal Wedding from this past summer. Between courses the Chamber Singers, the Royal Brass and the Royal Guitars entertain the guests with carols, songs, madrigals and solos.”

The Lords and Ladies of the Murray State Chamber Singers will host the celebration at Murray State.

“In addition to the regular performances on campus and throughout the region, the Chamber Singers present a full-scale Madrigal Dinner each December,” the Murray State University website states. “Employing a Victorian holiday theme, the dinner has become a regular feature of the greater Murray holiday celebrations entertaining over 175 people at each performance.”

Every year, the roles are hand selected to best fit each character. At the start of the fall semester, Almquist looks for students who will fit each roll perfectly.

“Dr. Almquist hand picks the chamber singers from concert choir,” Scarbrough said. “I auditioned for the chamber singers so that I could attempt to recreate an old English form of entertainment and to broaden my view of music itself.”

This year the dinner has brought in many students from all majors at Murray State.

“We usually have a mix of music majors and minors and majors from other academic departments,” Almquist said. “We also have a couple of theater minors in the cast.  Since the emphasis is on the singing, the choir is chosen at the beginning of the fall.  We use the talents, sometimes hidden, in those students for most of the parts.”

The most sought after roles in the production are usually the roles of the Jester, but all roles are fun to play.

“All of the singers participate in many various roles,” Almquist said. “However, there are two Jesters who really are the masters of ceremony. They keep the show moving.  Since it is a spontaneous show, things sometimes happen that require the ability to spontaneously respond. The other two roles of greater significance (are) the King and Queen or Lord and Lady who are the hosts for the dinner.  They ‘preside’ over the event.”

While each theme is similar, each show put on varies. Usually the shows have some comedic relief. They also often thrive on audience participation. Being a guest at the dinner allows you to be able to interact with the actors and test them on their skill to stay in character.

“The MSU Madrigal Dinner is a delightful and fun event welcoming the holiday season,” Almquist said. “It is also the only holiday community concert style performance that happens at Murray State. Therefore it is an important contribution to the spirit of the season.”

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