Making Merry: Madrigals returns to performing


Morgan Moody

Lily Evans

Lilly Miller, Reporter

Flying shoes, pies thrown in faces, and the traditional drink Wassail are all components that made up this year’s Madrigal show.

Madrigals is an extracurricular musical group for which students audition. It is directed by choir teacher Chris Corpus. Since the show was held on November 26 and 27 over Thanksgiving break, the performance included holiday songs, as well as traditional music. 

“Madrigal singing is a form of completely acapella music that comes from the Renaissance Era. There’s a little bit from the Middle Ages too,” Corpus said. “At U-High, the Madrigal singers do that kind of music with some other types of music as well.”

The show was held at First Presbyterian church and decorated to look like a castle. The Madrigals proceed into the room wearing traditional costumes. 

“The Madrigals are in really beautiful costumes that a king or queen or royal court would typically wear,” Corpus said. “Most of them were made years ago by a really talented choir mom. The court singers wear peasant attire and flower crowns.”

Faith Shepherd, Aaron Reed, Ava Frazier, Timi Lawal, Emma Bottomley, Cody Cusac, Joshitha Bodavula, Ethan Wright (Lilly Miller)

Within the group, roles are awarded to certain singers. This year, seniors Timi Lawal and Emma Bottomley held the title of king and queen. 

“I didn’t have to do any extra auditions for king. Mrs. Corpus really just sees who fits into each role and then it falls into place,” Lawal said. “The king has more responsibilities in the sense that he, along with the queen, starts and stops most songs. I had to use the pitch pipe as well because all the songs are performed acapella.”

Along with the singing, there are skits scattered throughout the show and a dinner served by the court singers. 

“We cater food and parents volunteer. We had Wassail (similar to an apple cider), salad, dinner rolls, chicken, potatoes, green beans, and cheesecake,” Lawal said. “The Madrigals were notorious for sending the dinner rolls off to the Madrigal strings and brass because they were always hungry.”

The success of the show can be attributed to the months of preparation.

“Madrigals is a huge time commitment. Even though the dinner is in November, we began learning music in August,” Bottomley said. “We practice twice a week for normally two hours. When we got closer to the dinners, we had even more rehearsals.”

Corpus adds that the work isn’t just in practices.

“The commitment level goes beyond the two weekly rehearsals,” Corpus said. “There’s so much music that the Madrigal singers have to spend time outside of rehearsal learning and memorizing.”

For this year’s show, the Madrigals learned 22 songs, although the choice of favorites varied throughout the group. 

“I really liked ‘Silver Bells’, I just think it’s so beautiful,” Bottomley said. “There’s a lot of really pretty chords and a ton of divisions. It makes it really interesting when you have a group of only 12 people that are each singing their own individual part.”

On the other hand, Corpus enjoyed a traditional take on a dance-pop song.

“My favorite was ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls,” Corpus said. “I think the arrangement was just so funny.”

Due to COVID, this has been the first Madrigal show since 2019.

Jesters Layla Brown and Lily Evans pie each other in the face during a skit. (Morgan Moody)

“I think this year was especially exciting because we hadn’t done it in so long,” Corpus said. “I think we just went into it with a bigger sense of excitement and anticipation.”

Corpus encouraged the group to make Sunday’s performance even bigger and funnier than the previous night. Some performers really took this to heart, like senior Cody Cusac. 

“My brother was sitting at the front table during the show,” Cusac said. “I thought it would be funny to mess with him, so when we did the kickline in ‘Men In Tights’, I loosened my shoe and kicked it at him.”

Along with excitement about the show, some singers were feeling bittersweet.

“I wasn’t really nervous before the show, just a little sad because I knew it was my last one,” Lawal said. “I just wanted to make the last one the best one.”

Throughout their time together, the Madrigal singers made many lasting memories.

“Honestly my favorite memory was just the rehearsals,” Bottomley said. “While we got work done, we still had a lot of fun and got to know each other. I also loved the Secret Santa we did before Sunday’s show.”

For people wanting to participate in Madrigals next year, auditions will be held in May. 

“I’m crossing my fingers that we have enough tenors and basses to audition,” Corpus said. “We need at least six boys that are at the right level.”

Students will have to prepare two excerpts from Madrigal songs and also do sight reading for auditions.

“Work on your music reading skills on top of your singing skills,” Corpus said. “The music is very challenging so we need literate musicians in the group.”

Providing a student perspective, Lawal gives advice for auditions.

Emma King and Ella Mueller drink Wassail together during the dinner portion of the show. (Lilly Miller)

“Do dedicated practice at home before you audition,” Lawal said. “Take a deep breath before you go in, you’ll be fine. It’s not as scary as you think it is and I highly recommend doing it.”

Bottomley agrees, also recommending this experience. 

“Half the battle is convincing yourself to try out and try something new,” Bottomley said. “It’s so magical to be able to walk into the hall and see the decorations and make music with some really talented people. Definitely try out.”