Students host NIU Madrigal Dinners

By Maureen Morrissey

Twenty-nine NIU music and theater students performed this weekend in the 26th annual Madrigal Dinners.

Elwood Smith, director and NIU music faculty member, said Saturday’s audience was “extremely good.” He added, “It was the best we have ever had, they appreciated the show. Each year the show changes, and the changes were very well-received this year.”

This year,in addition to traditional song and dance, the players acted out games that were popular in the 16th century. An equivalent of “Spin the Bottle”, or “Pillow Dance,” was performed for the audience. This was the first year that something of this type was included in the show and Patricia Smith, stage director, was “pleased with the audience’s response.”

The performances took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Holmes Student Center’s Duke Ellington Ballroom. There were 300-400 people in attendance each night. Tickets for the dinner show were $25.00.

Madrigal is a type of song that originated in Italy and was brought to England in the late 16th century, said P. Smith. They are sung without music and “were made up by people in order to entertain themselves,” she said. In England, they were most popular during the years of 1588-1627.

Madrigals are associated with Christmas because at that time, they were most commonly sung by the Lords and their dinner guests at the Christmas feast. For the feast, the Lords would invite townspeople and beggars to their house for dinner, drink, and good company.

“We try to give the audience a feeling of what it was like during the 16th century. The singers attire themselves in the dress of the day, mix among the audience, dance and play instruments of the period,” said P. Smith.