Boar’s head with a wassail chaser

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

Peterson Recital Hall recently was home to a beauty pageant, but it was nothing like anyone has seen on television.

The SDSU Concert Choir performed its biennial madrigal concert Nov. 28 through Dec. 2. More than 1,000 people attended the Christmasse Madrigal Feaste.

The 2007 feaste centered around a search for a new queen. In the story, the old queen had died, so they held a contest-featuring Miss South Dakota Kate Wismer -to find the king a new wife. The director of the concert choir, Steven Grives, tried to keep some traditional madrigal touches to the program to go with the comedy.

“The opening music was pure madrigal,” said Grives. “We always have the boar, the wassail toast and the final number, but everything else changes with each performance.”

Grives auditioned the choir at the beginning of the semester and chose 18 members to sit at the head table and divided the rest of the group into Westminster singers and servers.

“I was a server in the 2005 performance and this year I was at the head table. It is a huge honor to be involved with the head table and I appreciated every minute of it,” said Whitney Halverson, a senior music education major.

“Almost everyone at the head table has been in madrigal before. It’s easier that way-I don’t have to retrain people, and they’ve earned it. You work your way up,” said Grives.

Rachel LeBeau, a junior music education major and madrigal server, said she had a lot of fun, but the madrigal performance was a lot of responsibility. She said the servers practiced three days a week and both the Westminster singers and the head table practiced every day.

The madrigal concert is performed every two years, alternating with the Pride’s indoor concert. The madrigal feast is a fundraiser for the music department. Grives said the money goes towards scholarships and travel expenses. He said the program takes a lot of time to plan.

“This takes all semester, essentially,” said Grives. “I’m looking at hiring an assistant next time. I do the ticketing, I do the seating-I have my hand in everything.”

The concert choir will perform condensed versions of the madrigal concert concert Dec. 5 at the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls and for the Milbank Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 8. They will also perform the concert in January for the American Choral Directors Association.

Madrigal music was a popular form of private entertainment while Elizabeth I was queen of England. The music was also a major part of the traditional twelve days of Christmas.

“The madrigal is a good way to get people to come and experience music that they may not seek out on their own,” said Cori Bortnem, a senior liberal studies for speech pathology major. “It is all beautiful music, but when people listen to Christmas music, it is generally not foreign language madrigal pieces.”

Grives said there may be a performance aimed at students for 2009. SDSU students could purchase tickets for Wednesday’s performance at half price, but only a few took advantage of the deal.

“I wish that more SDSU students would come and enjoy this performance,” said Halverson. “It’s a very different experience considering the time frame we travel back to with the costumes, music and food.”

The madrigal concert has become a memorable experience for concert choir members since it began in 1987.

“People come back for this,” said Grives. “Every night, we have a handful of alumni stand up. It’s sort of become a tradition here.”

#1.883041:699600038.jpg:madrigal_Eric Landwehr.web.jpg:A new queen was selected pageant-style at the SDSU Madrigal Dinner.