Madrigral singers perform at Joslyn

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December 17th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The Joslyn Art Museum continues its Holiday Under Glass concert series this week with a performance fresh from the Renaissance.

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Madrigal music dates back to the 1500s when Italian aristocracy called on servants or ladies-in-waiting to perform as the evening’s entertainment. The singers would sing from secular texts – or poetry – usually in small dining halls or living rooms, as Dr. Matt Harden, director of choral activities at the University of Nebraska Omaha, explained. “It goes back to printing in the early 1500s,” Harden said. “Some of the texts can be rather lascivious,” he added with a laugh, “it’s kind of entertaining in a lot of ways.”

Madrigali et al. performers at Shakespeare on the Green. (Courtesy photo)

Madrigali et al. performers at Shakespeare on the Green. (Courtesy photo)

Harden is the founder of Madrigali et al., a group that continues the Madrigal tradition in Omaha. It began as a group of students performing during UNO’s annual Shakespeare on the Green festival and has expanded to become a community group of about 20 singers. “We have so much fun,” Harden said. “When we do the Shakespeare festival, we’re literally walking among the audience, standing within feet of them, and we’ll incorporate them into some of the madrigals we do… It just makes it a little bit more exciting. It brings the audience in.”

Harden’s group will perform at the Joslyn Art Museum this week as part of its nine-part Holiday Under Glass concert series. The group will sing several selections from the Renaissance era including “Verbum Caro Factum Est” by Hans Hassler, along with “Hodie Christus Natus Est” by Sweelinck. The group will also perform a piece by a former professor of Harden’s from Portland State University Brian Johanson using the text of the traditional “O Magnum Mysterium.”

Dr. Matthew Harden, director of choral activities at the University of Nebraska Omaha (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Matthew Harden, director of choral activities at the University of Nebraska Omaha (Courtesy photo)

Madrigali et al., will also sing a selection of Christmas carols – Madrigal style – and Harden will be on hand to translate and discuss some of the texts. “Songs like ‘God Rest You Merry Gentleman,’” Harden said, “’God rest you merry’ was a greeting of the day. We don’t tend to think of that. We just think of this carol as just a set of words.”

“I try really hard to try and get all of the music and the text to come alive for the audience,” he said.

Madrigali et al. will perform at the Joslyn Art Museum on Wednesday at noon. Central High School Singers will close out the concert series on Friday.

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