GREENFIELD — One puff on the pitch pipe, and it all begins — a swirl of sound swelling into multi-part harmony.
For Nick Capen, that moment comprises one of the most important for the madrigal choir. The Renaissance-era music, sung without accompaniment, depends on starting on just the right note.
And the high school junior’s discreet use of the pitch pipe at the beginning of each song promises to put them all on the same page.
The Greenfield-Central High School madrigal dinner, under the direction of Paul Grizzard, offers music, theater and a feast at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Park United Methodist Church, 207 W. Park Ave.
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The madrigal dinner, an annual event dating back to 1978, conjures a middle ages-style holiday celebration presided over by a king and queen — seniors Chris Joven and Dharma Tilley this year — while the royal court serves up dinner and song.
As the madrigal king, Joven’s duty is to command the servers and stroll among the tables during the meal to ensure the guests are enjoying their dinner.
“We have to act like hospitable nobles who welcome people to the castle,” he said.
Capen joined the group last year as a sophomore. He still remembers his first day of madrigal choir, how making that music felt like magic.
The choir members joined together in a tuning exercise, starting with getting everyone on the right note. Then came that moment when all the voices joined in, and the sound began to build.
“I got goosebumps,” he said. “It’s beautiful, hearing all the chords and notes come together to create such a beautiful sound.”
Capen assumed the duty of pitch-piper during last year’s madrigal performance when a senior who’d been assigned the task missed a performance. Capen filled in then and has been in charge of starting the songs off on the right pitch ever since.
“He was the junior-varsity pitch-pipe person last year,” joked Grizzard. “Now, he’s first string.”
But Grizzard doesn’t downplay the significance of Capen’s duties, adding that should a note be missed, the group doesn’t have any outside help from a piano and performs without a conductor.
But these singers are undaunted.
Last year — Grizzard’s first with the choir — at the Indiana State School Music Association competition, the group’s performance earned a gold medal — with distinction.
“It’s very hard to do,” Grizzard said, “a high honor.”
Of the six choirs at Greenfield-Central, the madrigal choir — one of only two choirs to require auditions — is the most prestigious of the six choirs and the most difficult to get into, Joven and Tilley agreed.
“They always talk about it (the madrigal choir) as being the best of the best,” Tilley added.
And that makes their performance one not to miss, members say.
For those who’ve adopted the madrigal dinner as their Christmas tradition, they won’t be disappointed, Grizzard said. The fellowship hall at Trinity Park will be decorated with greenery, candles and renaissance banners to match the music and the costumes of the performers, Grizzard said.
Morristown-based Kopper Kettle will cater salad, chicken and dessert with entertainment sprinkled throughout the dinner, Grizzard said.
The evening begins with a welcome, followed by wassail —a traditional hot cider beverage — and then the first act of “the masque,” the entertainment for the royals and their guests. The main course will be served, followed by more entertainment and dessert. The gala finishes with a concert from the more than 50 members of the madrigal choir.
As Greenfield-Central High School’s choir director, Grizzard is honored to be part of a long-standing tradition, one welcomed by the music-lovers who attend every year.
“It’s good to live in a community that supports good art,” he said.
The Greenfield-Central High School Madrigal Choir presents its annual madrigal dinner performances Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Trinity Park United Methodist Church, 207 W. Park Ave. Tickets are $25 and available online at gcmusic.ludus.com/index.php.