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Behind the scenes at the Madrigal Feaste

Kaitlyn Moore

Kaitlyn Moore

Luqman Tarouti

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Right before the holiday season, Ashland University’s Redwood Hall is preparing to change its apparel and go back in time to the 16th century.

Five days of the royal flags of purple and gold will hang from the vaulted redwood ceiling from Nov. 29 – Dec. 3.

Chamber singers and other performers will wear authentic baggy costumes of the period.

For the last 41 years, the Ashland University Department of Music has produced the annual Madrigal Feaste. The two and a half hour, theater-style feast is glutted with singing and theatrical entertainment.

“I have been there roughly eight times and let me tell you, I love classical music,” Naomi Saslaw, professor of English, said. “I can listen to the same piece 100 times and I’ll want to hear it 1,000 more times. It doesn’t get old.”

Chamber singers perform Christmas carols, ceremonial music like the Wassail drinking song, and Elizabethan love madrigals that deal with themes such as unrequited love, found love and pining.

Dr. Rowland Blackley, director of choral activities, has directed the event for the last 21 years.

“There is something for everybody,” Blackley said. “If you like good music, acapella singing, if you like Christmas carols, if you like humorous plays, if you like good food, if you like to have a player to come to you at dinner and start a conversation with you or do a card trick, do magic tricks, sometimes make fun of you… If you like any of those things there is all of that in there for you.”

Junior theatre major, Drew Berlin, is participating in the feast for the second time and is playing one of the members of the royal court. He is a costume designer this year.

“It’s a fun night, you can hear different singing styles and different languages. We sing in German, English, French, Latin, Italian,” Berlin said. “It’s always funny because the skit is hilarious.”

Anna Rivero, senior in vocal music with a minor in theatre, is another member of the royal court, performing her first Madrigal Feaste.

“A few things need to be memorized, like the prayer before dinner. We all have to close our eyes, look down and hold hands, so we have to have those memorized,” Rivero said. “There is a lot of training, not only in rehearsal, but on your own time.“

Blackley said the music department has been continuing the feaste for all these years because people continue to show vested interest in it.

“The show continues to sell out year after year,” Blackley said “Even though much of it the same from year to year.”

He also thinks it is a good tradition for the university to show off a lot of different aspects of what the university can do – singing, theatrical entertainment, and the feaste also spotlights the university’s catering service which provides the meals.

The performance is student-driven, Blackley said. Students do all the work: serving, entertainment, music, singing and theatrics.

“Some people have been to 5, 10, 15, there is actually a couple who has been to all 42 Madrigal Feasts,” Blackley said.

The Madrigal Feaste is a unique opportunity for students and the Ashland community to experience classical music, humor and quality food.

“If people are not sure about classical music, go, the music is so beautiful, it will take the top of your head off. I mean It’s incredibly beautiful.” Saslaw said. “If you haven’t been to something like that, go and try it, because we are enriched by trying different experiences and in most cases if you go once you’ll be back. It is contagious.”

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