Students in Renaissance tights make Bryan Hall a chamber of love

Go back in time and immerse yourself in the world of the Renaissance tonight in Bryan Hall. The Madrigal Chamber Singers will be featured at 8 p.m.

Directed by School of Music professor Dr. Lori Wiest, the Madrigal Singers are a small choir based on the madrigals of the Renaissance period. These members embrace the traditional style of their 16th century counterparts.

Their costumes, made by former staff member Alice Spitzer, capture a royal design complete with tights, headdresses, medallions, and puffy shorts.

“I like to think of mine kind of as a Robin Hood,” said Ryan Timm, WSU senior and Madrigal tenor.

With the exception of the occasional piano, the choir sings in a cappella style, again capturing the Renaissance culture. The themes in the music include everything from making fun of a royal to the deep passion between lovers in both sacred and contemporary renditions.

“The organization itself is made of music and non-music majors,” Dr. Wiest said. “It’s really an interesting mix of people based on their talents and skills.”

Tonight, the score will include songs sung in Italian. This is not the first time the Madrigal Singers have sung in other languages. In the past the group sang in Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Mandarin. Choir members carefully go through the music with Wiest to gain a better understanding of the text.

“It’s not so much learning the language as it is learning how to pronounce the language,” said Samantha Cottam, WSU senior and soprano.

Students who have studied a foreign language and foreign language professors assist the students in the pronunciation of the lyrics.

Wiest said she chose Renaissance music because of how much she loved it, with its inspiring, magical feeling and a composer’s take on the poetry of the words. The music connects with the history and brings the sound that a small ensemble can deliver.

“It’s a lot of fun to sing in a group like that because you can recreate these sounds that are from history,” Cottam said.

Cottam, Timm and Wiest all described the Madrigal Singers as very family-like, with the members working together to create a smooth blend of their sounds. Through the bonding experiences and rehearsals twice a week, they learn how each part plays a role and works together.

“Singing in a choir is a team sport,” Wiest said. “If someone is not doing their part, someone else has to work harder for them.”

For the free concert at 8 p.m. this evening, the Madrigals will sing songs of love, passion and a little death.