Madrigal Dinner recalls dancing, music, drama of 16th century

Stephanie Kobes

The trumpet fanfare echoes against the walls of the Great Hall in the Memorial Union, announcing the royal court’s entrance and the beginning of the feast at the Madrigal Dinner.

Reminiscent of 16th-century England, this candle-lit feast, which includes skits, music and dancing will take place this Friday and Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a social hour.

“The Madrigal Dinner is a hidden jewel of Iowa State University. ISU has a long-standing reputation of presenting an evening of period music that the old and young alike can enjoy,” says Janice Baker, assistant professor of health and human performance and director of Orchesis II for this year’s Madrigal.

After developing one of the first Madrigals in this area of the country, Iowa State is now preparing for its 39th annual dinner. The chamber music and interaction of the cast with the crowd is what keeps people coming back, says James Rodde, professor of the music department and leader of the Madrigal Dinner.

The audience can expect the music of the ISU Singers, the Music Men and the period instrumental music of Musica Antiqua. Playing authentic instruments including the bladder pipe, the hammered dulcimer, the serpent and the lizard, Musica Antiqua makes the music come alive, Baker says. It is music that is soothing for the soul, she says.

About 20 dancers from Iowa State’s Orchesis II dance club also help to bring the idea of 16th-century England to life. They not only dance, but also become part of the skits, as well as beggars and wenches.

“I have been involved for three years, and my favorite part of the Madrigal is interacting with the crowd,” says Melissa Van Osdel, senior in mechanical engineering and Orchesis II dancer. “Despite the fact that I am mostly just a dancer, the Madrigal has allowed me to not only dance, but also act, which I don’t get to do very often.”

Everything is authentic to merry old England, including the food, costumes and music, Baker says. Even the peasant dances are authentic, choreographed by Valerie Williams, an area professional dancer, from an ancient text written in French.

Getting in touch with a little bit of history and an evening of good entertainment and good food is what should draw ISU students to attend the Madrigal Dinner, Rodde says.

“The Madrigal is Guerilla Theater that is very dynamic and very interactive. It has taught me how to relax and have a good time,” Baker says. “I think that is why people love going to the Renaissance times, because life seemed to be much less complicated. It is just a simple, joyous time that is soothing and uplifting for the soul.”

What: Madrigal Dinner

Where: Great Hall, Memorial Union

When: 5:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday

Cost: $28 students, $30 public