Students to perform Madrigals at dinner

By Rick Moreci

Where can you go to have a dinner just like kings and queens had in 16th century England? You can go to the annual Madrigal Dinner sponsored by the music department.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the dinner at NIU. This makes the Madrigal Dinner one of the oldest in this area. The dinner will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19, 20 and 21 in the Holmes Student Center.

A madrigal is a piece of non-sacred music written in 16th century England, said Elwood Smith, director of the dinner. It was written for several different singers to perform at the same time. They were basically poems about fun, love, nature and seasons, particularly spring. They were sung by wealthy lords and ladies. Smith said these poems can be compared to modern day pop songs.

A Madrigal Dinner features performances of these songs and at the same time tries to re-create a festive, holiday dinner as celebrated in England. The madrigals which will be used at this dinner will be the most interesting possible so as to capture the attention of the audience.

People attending the dinner should dress casual. The singers, however, will be wearing what they would have worn while performing in England. There also will be a person posing as a court jester to further entertain guests. “This is the type of entertainment people enjoy,” Smith said.

The madrigals will be performed by 14 university students from the music department. Most of these students are majoring in music and the majority also are studying voice.

Rock cornish ham will be the main course at the Madrigal Dinner. This was a very popular dish at in England in the 16th century. Other dishes also will be based on what was served during this time.

Tickets are $25 for tables close to the stage and $22 for those further away. Smith said in the past, the dinner was widely attended by alumni and faculty.

There also are a lot of high school madrigal groups which attend NIU’s dinner in order to get ideas for their own dinners. Student attendance is not high because of the price of the tickets.

“This is a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Smith said. “People enjoy this dinner because they keep coming back year after year.”

Smith stressed the importance of making reservations early. Reservations can be made over the phone by calling the music office at 753-1447.