Wassail to thou and thine

I went to SIUE‘s Madrigal dinner on Thursday and had a good evening. The acting was a disappointment, but the music carried the day (the food wasn’t all bad either). Made me remember how much I like old centuries-old music. Back then, four-part harmony was the hottest thing since wheels on a barrow.

The words dont’ mean much, but there’s real invention in the chords and phrasing of each voice. I’d consider this to be one of the finer examples of the late Renaissance style from the baroque phase of the first half of the House of Cardes.

Review: Wicked [the musical]

The day finally came on Friday to get in the horseless carriage and head to the theatre. I was pretty excited in the days leading up to the show, since it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a musical. Plus, my folks and Ape & me were enthralled with Wicked the book, which made this particular show a novel (larf) experience. We even had great seats- 13th row from the stage, the closest I’m ever likely to get without having to join the orchestra. First impressions: the first act didn’t live up to my expectations. It veered wildly from the book, rather than the more common approach of omitting non-essential details. The music was not very memorable either- the words were rather difficult to understand sometimes, and this beast bore the mark of soulless contemporary music.

The second act was much better, in nearly every aspect. The action was swifter, the emotion more tangible, and there were a few songs that left me humming after the show. It’s possible that I enjoyed the second more because it became more evident that the musical was conceived for an audience that had never read Gregory Maguire’s story, or even the original Frank L. Baum’s story. The musical is aimed squarely at a family audience who knew the movie inside and out. I have to include ‘family audience’ because nearly every violent aspect of the story was removed or quickly reversed* (read footnote for a spoiler)

Final Assessment: At the end of the night, I decided that I enjoyed the musical quite a bit, in spite of the many inconsistencies with the book I so thoroughly enjoyed.

*The musical depicts Elphaba’s death by water as a trick, which deceives her contemporaries. She is then secretly reunited with Fiyero and they live happily ever after. Contrast this with Maguire’s novel, in which nearly everyone dies.

Too much I once lamented

Everything was fantastic tonight at the Madrigal Dinner. The food was good, the setting was lovely, and the singing excellent. It took place at GC Cuisine here in Edwardsville in their ‘crystal garden. Although I’m normally skeptical of any name beginning with ‘crystal’ it was pretty nice, in spite of the b*tch. A woman who worked there decided that we shouldn’t have been using an empty adjacent hall to keep our clothes/props, and turned off the lights while we were getting ready for the dinner. The dear thing probably just wanted to simulate Medieval light levels.

My folks came to support me once again, and reminded me that the last Madrigal Dinner they’d been to was in 2002, five whole years ago. After all this time, I think they still enjoy it as much as I do. I was completely aware of this, but like so many things it escapes the daily routine of my mind. I was glad to finally be part of the 12 days of Christmas schtick; a cute little girl was my Sherlock Holmes/11 pipers piping, and with a little encouragement she managed to speak slightly louder than a distant rustling of paper. Some of the songs we sang tonight were the same, the costumes were generally of the same quality; paradoxically, this was probably one of the best performances of my life, yet had the least amount of time invested into it. I attribute this miracle to the heart, rather than the mind. In general, it’s very easy to be taken with madrigal music as a singer. Small ensembles, tight harmony, and playful songs are a welcome respite from Bach cantatas (as in I can’t stand them). This particular group was superb because there were no egos/axes to grind/divas, and gifted voices to boot. I’ll certainly miss singing with them.

It’s one of those nights where I get taken up by excessive sentimentality. Of course I’ll remember and cherish the dinner, but not in the way I’d like. The truth of it will be that I remember the way it made me feel far longer than the particulars of the event. This concept applies to most things, but music has the eternal quality of return performances. If in the future I sing one of the songs I sang tonight, no matter how many years pass, it will trigger the memory in a way that no other medium I’ve encountered can. Maybe that’s why I get so sentimental about it.