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Madrigal dinners: How-to

Hi all,

Here are collected responses on my question on Madrigal Dinners.

cheers, all


Although retired now, we did 15 years of Madrigal Dinners. I looked at
several scripts for sale when we started up in 1986. In the end, Paul
Brandvik's book (while he was working at Bimidji State) was my bible. If
you buy the complete book it comes with 2 scripts and two sets of
useable music. Inexpensive.

The scripts do not refer to any specific music. Do what you like. Each
of the scripts there after, and there is a lengthy list available, each
has a repertoire list as he used it. But you can do any music you like.

Paul's book has many guidelines for how to do the Dinner. We expanded
on his basic ideas, heavily decorated, and had a 15 year hit. It just
kept getting bigger and bigger.

Lots of work, but great fun, and considerable satisfaction. We had some
people who came all 15 years. We bought all of Paul's scripts, and
never repeated. If the food, music and audience play is good, they will
keep coming.

I was working with high school kids, but they could do the work.

Russell Parker


The only resource text that comes to mind is a book published by the USA
firm of *Mark Foster Music* (which is in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois) -
the author escapes me, but I'm sure if you can get to the Foster site,
it will still be available. As I recall, this text and accompanying
musical publications was the 'catalyst' for the explosion of *Madrigal
Feast* dinners presented by many High School choral programs here, as
well as College/University/Professional Choral Society and related
groups. The book covers everything (from history to the 'nuts & bolts'
of theatrical performance, costumes, staging, etc).

I'm not sure if any source monographs are available for *Renaissance
Fayre* style presentations (popular here, among historical realization
buffs....usually in the form of a Jousting contest and the like.

However, if you can track down the Foster material, I'm sure you will be
quite satisfied with its contents and program suggestions.....

Sorry I can't be of more help.....if I run across anything else, or
remember the author of the text, I'll write you personally....


Charles Martin Brooks MA,FRCCO,ChM
Valparaiso, Indiana
(Valparaiso University)


If you will turn to my homepage and click on the blue words, "Choral
works," you will be presented with a host of category titles. Click
"Multi-voice Works," and you will find a host of pieces to consider.
Each piece contains a description, a text of prose or poetry, vocal
ranges, a duration number, and an expected degree of difficulty. If you
look there, you will find some ideas that may contribute to what you
wish to do.

Good luck with your plans. It is my hope that I can be of help by
sending you music and/or CD(s) for perusal.


Wallace De Pue
* My e-mail address is wallace(a) * * My
homepage is *


Here are primary sources that students may use to devise their own 'plays'

The English Dancing Master

Scroll down the page for PDF files of the dance music

SCA Dance Cheat Sheets

Recordings of the music with historical instruments - scroll down: some
files are synthesized, but many are with original instruments. Happy

The Ghost of Glastonbury - (click on CLICK HERE)

St. George and the Dragon (on the left column of this site are a list
of other skits you may enjoy clicking on)

There's a Dragon About

A Mumming Play about St. George

Little Geste of Robin Hood
(This poem could easily be turned into a play)

Annotated Griffen Road Mumming Play

Saint George and the Dragon - VIDEO CLIPS

'Pyramus and Thisbe' is a funny short play by Shakespeare that you can
add love songs and parodies to. It's found toward the end of "A
Midsummer Night's Dream."

32-Second Macbeth

Wizard of Oz by 'William Shakespeare' - There's No Plays Like Home

Terrible Grump [easy to adapt to Madrigal play]

Trouble Under Foot [easy to adapt to Madrigal play]

Videos of Dances from the Renaissance through Ragtime - from the Library
of Congress - copying the MPEG versions is best - these take awhile to
download, but once saved on the computer, they are instantaneous ...and
WONDERFUL for teaching. Copyright page included here.

I will let others tell you about materials you can PURCHASE. Here are
some internet libraries that I have organized and you and your students
may use them freely.

Since I am going to overwhelm you shortly, here is a good site to start
out with:

Invitation to Your Madrigal Dinner

This is a wonderful site, and I think it will answer many of your questions.

CHORAL LIBRARY: Over 1550 complete choral compositions performed by
choirs on the internet. This will be useful for have your choir members
LISTEN to pieces they may be learning, not only for the Madrigal Dinner,
but for ANY repertoire. If the composition is in public domain and
published on the internet, I have typed the internet address underneath
the link so that you may download the music for free.

SHAKESPEARE FOR KIDS: From the Folger Library in Washington DC, there
are many authentic woodcuts here that could be used for decorations on
programs, placemats, banners, etc. plus there are suggestions for how
your students can talk Shakespearian (insults, compliments, etc.). One
entertaining skit is the 32-Second-Macbeth, or Shakespeare's "Wizard of
Oz." Lots to explore, here:

RENAISSANCE INTERNET SITES: There are play scripts that you can do;
designs for shields; dance manuals (with videos) that teach Renaissance
dances; Renaissance puzzles; Renaissance recipes, Clipart for your
programs, etc.




Best wishes on your Madrigal Dinner. They are a lot of fun!


William Prante
1216 Newton Street
Gretna, Louisiana 70053


I can't answer your question about scripts and all, but I thought I'd share my experience with being in a madrigal dinner and what we did. When I was in high school, the 11th and 12th grade chorus (highest two grade levels in the US system) would do a madrigal dinner every other school year (alternating with a tour) in lieu of a holiday concert in December. The cafeteria was decorated, the school rented renaissance-type costumes (seniors were nobles, juniors were servers) and we sold tickets for $25 or so apiece for dinner (some kind of small game bird-phesant or quail or whatever, don't know, we only got veggies, not meat!- with accompanying veggies, etc.). One senior was the head steward and another was the jester. When everyone was seated, the "nobles" came in in a big procession, the servers brought in the "boar's head" while singing the boar's head carol, and the food was served. We nobles (we did it my senior year) sat up on a raised platform and ate and
carried on our made-up conversations in fake accents while the juniors served the food. After a while, the members of the select ensemble broke up into quartets and roamed the "banquet hall" singing madrigals - each quartet learned two that we serenaded the diners with.
After the eating was done, we gave a short concert - christmas repertoire we had been working on, not necessarily all from a renaissance time period. Seems like that was the year we did a neat arrangement of "deck the halls" in 7/8 time. Anyway, also as part of the entertainment a group of juniors put on a short play (I think the year I was in it, they acted out the Shel Silverstein poem "The Giving Tree" and two years earlier they did a Shakespeare play-within-a-play, the one with Pyrramus and Thigbee - is that Midsummer Nights' Dream, maybe?) and at the end the jester recited Puck's speech from the end of Midsummer Night's Dream (If we shadows have offended, think on this and all is mended...) and we processed out singing "Silent Night."

So now that you've waded through all that...

The only "script" we used was the overall structure and the parts that were always the same - seating the people, Boar's Head being brought in, and a few other places that had specific lines, like the end. Seems like the head steward had a conversation or two with various people, including the jester. The only places that had specific songs that we always did were the Boar's Head carol and Silent Night at the end, and I'm sure the same madrigals were used every time with the
serenading quartets.

I don't know how this compares with how other people do it. I just wanted to share my experience with it to give you a better idea of what is involved, or at least what was involved in the production my high school put on.

Let me know if you have questions!

Ann Wells - annie_squirrel(a)
K-6 General Music
Cherokee County, GA, USA


Just buy any of the Knight Shtick Press scripts, and put in your own
music. I recently bought $200 worth of non-returnable scripts from
Madrigal Traditions, Inc. They are not really good.

The Knight Shtick stuff is really adaptable. You don't have to do
complicated madrigals. If you want, I can suggest some surefire easy
things, as well as send you a few of my own pieces. We don't do all
renaissance stuff in our dinners. It's the costuming and candlelight,
and a cappella singing in general that make the dinner.

May I suggest the Boston Camerata's CD "Medieval Christmas" for
something to play as people enter and are seated. It sets a mood, and
you don't have to have a full consort.

Let me know if you want my things.

Meg Papadolias
West Aurora High School
Aurora, Illinois


We do an Early American version using the music of composers like
Billings. This year the plot will be a Hessian soldier escaping his
regiment and pursued into town by a regimental officer. The script is
something I have written in collaboration with my department chair and
is in the spirit of opera buffa. We use it as a fund raising event and
a way to draw in those less likely to come to traditional concerts. Our
students love the chance to act.

Lanny R. McManus, D.M.A.
Director of Choral Activities
Central Baptist College
1501 College Ave
Conway, AR 72034
(501)329-6872 ext. 150


Our Madrigal Dinner will center around a medieval dinner, complete with
Royal Court (our chamber choir), King and Queen (members of the chamber
choir), Royal Jester, Town Crier, singing waiters and waitresses (members
of our larger concert choir). For each section of the meal there will be
a fanfare, some dialog, and a song. During the main course we will
perform a short one-act play. During desert the Royal Court will perform
a short concert, around 8-9 madrigals. We will then sing one final song
and that's it. Dinner is over. Let me know if you have any questions.


Aaron McCullough
Director of Choral Activities
Winterset High School
624 Husky Drive
Winterset, IA 50273

School - (515) 462-3320
Fax - (515) 462-2178


Madrigal Dinners can be great fun. They can be delightfully amusing in some
parts and sublimely musical in other parts. They are an opportunity to
bring quality music to audiences who might not come to hear such music in a
regular concert. Most are based on a renaissance England theme and may
involve a diverse group of actors and singers, with jugglers, mimes,
dancers, and other such entertainers when available.

Many directors use the book, entitled THE COMPLEET MADRIGAL DINNER BOOKE, by
Paul Brandvik as a good starting point. It is a basic how-to-do-it book.
It is available from Neil A. Kjos Music Company in San Diego. Their
telephone number in the USA is 1-800-854-1592. Many people have found this
book very helpful.

Our company, Knight-Shtick Press, has a catalogue of 26 different scripts.
They are listed, with a synopsis of each, on our web site: The scripts contain all dialogue need to produce a
madrigal dinner, including opening greeting, festivities, and dialogue
introducing many of the concert selections. There are suggestions for music
for the concert and the other parts of the madrigal dinner. The music is
not included with the scripts, but there is a listing of publishers from
whom the music can be purchased. Other suitable music, of course, may be
used. These scripts can be ordered from the web site.

Good luck and have fun.
Sincerely, Paul Brandvik


As a former member of the Illinois State Madrigals from 1963-1966 I worked with Dr. John Ferrell and Bruce Kaiser, who brought the dinner to ISU from Indiana University. I started the Lincoln-Way Madrigal Singers in 1970 and they have presented an annual dinner(s) since that time and this year will be the 34th edition. I recently retired but the dinners have continued as a holiday tradition.

I have about 21 years of scripts that I would be happy to share with you. When I directed the dinners we used a Jester and the script was in verse form. The present dinners at my school have gone away from that but my original scripts included the music and verse. Let me know if I could be of help.

Charles Stark
Lincoln-Way Central High School
815.485.3480 - Home phone

Charles R. Stark
Lincoln-Way Central High School
Auditorium Coordinator


I would highly suggest buying Dr. Paul Brandvik's book: Ye Olde Book of
Madrigal Dinners, (I think that is what the title is...not positive).
Many directors throughout the US go by this book, and Brandvik's scripts
for their madrigal dinners, and are a great success.
Good luck!
Sarah Christy Howe


anthony linden jones
Musical Director - Chorella, a capella choir
based in Richmond, NSW
email: lindensong(a)