A Madrigals Performance Unlike Any Other


Gia Shin and Ryan Kim

As most events have been transferred online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so has the annual Tenafly High School Madrigals festival. Madrigals, a form of secular music from the Renaissance and early Baroque eras, is a Tenafly tradition that has been maintained for decades. 

The performance usually takes place live in the cafeteria with food, but this year, the choir and orchestra filmed their respective parts in the auditorium. The choir filmed its performance on Friday, December 18th, while the orchestra filmed its part the following Monday, on the 21st. They performed Renaissance songs such as “The Wassail Song” and “I Saw Three Ships,” traditional Christmas carols from England dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells” and tracks from “The Nutcracker.” Both the choir and orchestra cut several songs from its usual programs to adjust to the virtual shift.

“We had to be extremely flexible as dates also changed a lot,” Dina Shlufman (’23) said. “Decorating the cafeteria is also a key part of the festivities that was missed out on and not being able to use the energy of the crowd to perform was definitely disappointing.” However, there were still advantages as a result of taping the performance. “Usually it is performed in front of a live audience but this time we had the opportunity to shoot songs [and] scenes multiple times in order to get them just right, which we usually would not be able to do,” Shlufman said.

Pre-recording the performance rather than performing it live gave students the chance to perfect their songs unlike no other years had, which is what made this year’s performance one to remember. Additionally, performing in Madrigals this year was not mandatory for honors choir and orchestra students, while in previous years, the honors students were required to perform. Members of the Chamber Music Club participated instead, allowing students in the symphony orchestra—the orchestra without honors credit—to participate in the Madrigals performance this year. The arrangement of performers was also altered to adhere to social distancing guidelines. For the choir performers, in order to compensate for the social distancing and the sheer size of the auditorium, microphones were distributed to be taped onto the masks of the performers. This was meant to both increase the volume in the auditorium and aid the audio crew in the mixing process, in which the volume of the mics of specific individuals are adjusted in order to balance the sound. For the orchestra, players were also spread out on stage with several mics around the stage to amplify the sounds of their instruments. 

In this year’s choir, the tenor and bass sections were cut very thin, only having three individuals between the two voice parts able to perform. However, the individual microphones helped a lot with the overall volume and sound, replicating the atmosphere of past madrigals performances very nicely. 

As always, the Madrigals performance would not have been possible without the supervision and orchestrations of Mr. Jim Millar and Mr. Stephen Moger.