Here they come a-caroling: Sycamore Madrigals perform for sold-out crowds

SYCAMORE – Freshman Ava Bickner of Sycamore has been to Medieval Times, but she said it doesn’t compare at all to dressing up in a Renaissance costume to participate in the Sycamore High School Madrigals.

“It’s similar to Medieval Times but it’s set during the Renaissance, without the horses and sword fighting but with Christmas carols,” Bickner said. “However, there is a fight over a sword.”

Bicker was one of the four pages in this year’s Sycamore Madrigal productions, along with sophomore Madelyn Lathrop and freshmen Lynsey Villarreal and Raychel Seger. The Madrigal performances were held Thursday and Friday at St. Mary’s Memorial Hall, 322 Waterman St. in Sycamore.

“I love that the cast is like one big family,” Villarreal said. “I love the costumes and the songs; they really get you into character. I’m definitely going to try out again next year. You create memories you’ll remember for a long time.”

Madrigals is an auditioned extracurricular a cappella vocal ensemble that sings traditional, Renaissance and Baroque literature, as well as contemporary holiday selections in a dinner theater setting. A play is performed between food courses, with songs and music throughout.

This year, Sycamore’s Madrigal performances featured 50 performers, including singers from Sycamore High School and Sycamore Middle School’s Spartan Singers, 20 servers and 16 instrumentalists.

SHS Director of Choirs Drayton Eggleson performed in madrigals when he was a student at Sycamore High.

“I’d describe the madrigals as a celebration of Renaissance style-music, holiday carols and costumes, taking you back to that period in time,” Eggleson said. “This year’s performances were very well received, with both shows sold out both nights, 150 tickets each.”

Sycamore Middle School Choir Director Brian Kowalski also described madrigals as a Renaissance version of Medieval Times. Kowalski performed in the madrigals when he was in middle school in Elgin.

“It’s a mix of singing and acting and there’s food served to the audience,” Kowalski said. “There’s live music, traditional Christmas carols, a sing-along and jesters that act as emcees. It’s a fun start to the holiday season and brings a little bit of that Christmas spirit to the community. The whole community comes out and they enjoy it and look forward to it every year.”

Jean Bradford of Sycamore attended the performance on Friday to watch her two grandchildren perform.

“I’ve been to the madrigals often, watching nieces and nephews and my brother and sister-in-law,” Bradford said. “It’s very Christmas-y. I love all the songs. I’d probably come even if I didn’t know anybody in the performance.”

Bridget Johnson performed in Sycamore’s Madrigals all four years of high school and continues to be involved in madrigals as the show’s costume designer.

“It’s different from any other show,” Johnson said. “When the doors open up, the show begins, but the audience is immersed in the story. They join in the feast, they participate and they even sing along at the end. It’s an experience like no other.”

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