Mountain Madrigal Singers celebrate 35 years
Don’t let the name fool you — in the 35 years since its foundation, the Mountain Madrigal Singers has branched out considerably from the 15th century song style that brought them together.
A kazoo concerto, for instance, is one of numerous old favorites included per audience vote for this year’s theme of “Christmas Memories.”
There’s also some pieces geared especially toward kids, and a special red-and-white clad guest is anticipated.
“We sing a whole variety of music now,” said Cliff Keen, who has sung tenor in the group for 18 years. “This year, because it’s a request concert, it will be particularly fun and varied.”
The group has grown, too, from eight members at its first performance at Strawberry Days and later Christmas 1981, to 24 singers and several musicians.
They range from construction workers to teachers to car salesmen, all united by a love of song.
“The entire group is all volunteer, and has been since the beginning,” Keen said.
The concert, which takes place 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 13 and 19 at the First United Methodist Church, is consequently free.
Donations support recordings, sheet music, advertising and sundries.
To pay for the venue, they sing songs for the church’s Christmas services.
“The Methodist church still has the best acoustics in town,” Keen said. “They have been really wonderful to let us practice and do our performances there.”
The space has room for a couple hundred people, and they usually add a few more rows, but even so it usually fills to capacity.
“I tell people to come early,” Keen said.
The show has a strict vetting process, with each member going through tryouts to participate, with another round of auditions for solos.
They have also dispensed with sheet music for the performance itself, preferring to memorize the performance in its entirety.
“It’s totally changed the character of the concert not to have to look at music,” Keen said. “It makes it much more fun, and we really get into the music itself.”
There’s a sense of camaraderie that comes from putting it all together.
“Once we get in we don’t want to go. It’s just such a rich part of my life, and I think everybody feels that way,” said longtime soprano Mary Lamb. “So many do things for us, and it’s just such a joy to be able to give a gift back.”
While not specifically religious, the event is definitely holiday oriented.
“The season is so busy with so many different things, and everyone has to choose what they go see. I like seeing live music, sung by singers,” Keen said. “It’s a concert to bring a little light into what’s happening in the world these days, and maybe even a sense of hope.”
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The first in-person local festival of the year has arrived with Dandelion Day making its return to Sopris Park in Carbondale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.