The Feaste at 40: New Britain H.S. Madrigal Singers celebrate Renaissance music

Published on Wednesday, 6 December 2017 21:10
Written by Skyler Frazer

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain High School Madrigal Singers will celebrate decades of bringing Renaissance-era music and festivities to the city later this week when the group hosts its 40th annual Madrigal Feaste.

For four decades, NBHS has had a group of singers dedicated to performing music from another era. On Friday and Saturday, the singers will once again transport their visitors hundreds of years into the past with musical performances, entertainers and a full dinner.

The school’s Madrigal Singers were founded in the 1970s by choral director Norman Elia.

Jason Ferrandino, NBHS choral director and the current director of the Madrigal Feaste, participated in the group when he was at the school in the 1990s. Ferrandino said each choral director has put their own spin on the annual event like Mark Neumann , the director when Ferrandino was a Madrigal.

“My senior year I was Henry VIII and it was during the Clinton scandal, so we kind of took off on that,” Ferrandino said, explaining that Newman would often have political undertones in his rendition of the Madrigal Feaste.

After graduating in 1999, Ferrandino was hired by Neumann  as an assistant choral director. Including his time as a student, Ferrandino has been a part of 22 Madrigal Feastes. During his time, the annual event has had a wide variety of themes ranging from things like murder mysteries, to Star Wars vs. Star Trek to James Bond.

“We try to mix things up because we do have people who have been coming - if not for all 40 of the years - for many of them. So we try to make it so it’s not the same show every year,” Ferrandino explained, while not divulging many details about this year’s script.

Mainstays like wassail, the boar’s head procession, the flaming dessert and the post-dinner concert can be expected, while traditions like the Madrigal dance, rules of etiquette and news from the kingdom are returning to the Madrigal Feaste.

Scripted segments and dinner service will alternate over the course of the evening, like a medieval version of a “dinner theater” event. The NBHS Orchestra, Brass Ensemble and Treble Choir will join the Madrigal Singers in performing the era’s music and entertainment and several students will act as serving wenches to bring meals to guests.

“When Mr. Elia did it, it was very traditional, very dry with many political toasts and things like that, which we’ve brought a little bit more of back this year with our own twists,” Ferrandino explained.

“There is a plot involved and it’s still got our kooky sense of humor running through things.”

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @SFrazerNBH

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Wednesday, 6 December 2017 21:10. Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2017 13:15.