Madrigals Make It To State


Photo courtesy of the Highland Madrigals Choir

The Madrigals Choir, along with director Katie Houston - kneeling on the far left, pose for pictures at the regions competition.

Grace Ojewia, News Editor

Highland’s Madrigals choir, along with choir director and conductor Katie Houston, has qualified for state with a straight superior rating, giving them a one plus. That is the highest one can rank at the choir regions competition, which was held at Murray High School this year. The Madrigals raised the bar with their performances. The Madrigal Womens’ choir also qualified for state with their pieces. The choirs are graded on things like intonation, quality of the performance, pitch, etc.

The Madrigals chamber choir performed the French song Verduran, American folk song How Can I Keep From Singing, and a Latin song. French speaker and Madrigals soprano, Maren Moffatt, helped with the pronunciation of the French piece and they listened to recordings to help them perfect their diction. Two of the songs were a ‘Capella which is considered higher in difficulty. Verduran had clapping in it which was a unique component in the song. Houston wanted the choir to sing a mix of songs with different tempos, styles, and accompaniment. The Madrigals Men performed the song What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor. Although the men did not qualify for state, it was still a fun experience.

“We kept a good focus,” Madrigals tenor Micah Jeppson said. “That’s what was important I think. I think everyone got on a good level and kept level heads.”

The Women’s choir performed a choral version of the piece Kumbayah.  For their song, some people were doing vocal percussions for almost the whole time while others were singing.  At the last verse they all joined together singing. The women’s’ choir worked on their own to get their transitions and parts right.

“We pulled it off perfectly,” Madrigals alto Paige Perkins said. “The transitions were really good. It was really cool to see it pull together and hear it come together too.”

To prepare for the regions competition Houston had the Madrigals do memorization homework, participate in sectionals – where, for example, the tenors might work together on their part of a song and Houston would work with various groups. There was also a lot of rehearsals. A professor from Utah Valley University came and did a workshop with the students where Houston feels like everyone learned a lot of things.

They recorded themselves and discussed the things they heard in the recordings. In the music library they practiced in the dark where they listened to each other. This was for them to be able to focus on what they could hear and instead of what they could see. All of this ended up coming together with the result of performances that impressed the judges and truly showed what they had put into everything.

“It’s exciting, and it’s scary too because you want them to do the best for what they’ve prepared for and sometimes when you get nervous it’s easy to forget things that you’ve practiced,” Houston said about performing at regions. “It’s very nerve-wracking, but it’s also very rewarding when you have those beautiful moments and all your hard work pays off.”

Several individuals also qualified for state as soloists from all of Highland’s various choirs. There were also a harpist and pianist that qualified as well.

Madrigals soprano Kara Ngu was one of those who earned a superior one plus rating and individually qualified for state. She sang the piece Nuit D’Etoiles by Claude Debussy which is a French song that translates to “Night of Stars.” It is a song about the feeling of longing for specifically love, but for her she had the meaning of the song be longing for a dream.

“To really delve into the emotion and really get to know a piece you need to be able to know every single word and what the piece is about to really capture the true meaning,” Ngu said.

For a lot of the Madrigals members, this was their last regions competition. Composed of mostly juniors and seniors, many found they are a part of something special. The choir department has helped these young singers in a variety of ways whether through technical things, building more confidence when performing, or meeting new people, etc.

“In terms of technical things my breath support has gotten a thousand times better,” Moffatt said. “I know what makes a good sound and even if I’m not always able to create that I know what I need to fix to make it sound good with a choir. I have [also] grown to love having a place in the choir.”

In preparation for state, the choirs are focused on putting more emotion and life to their performances. Since much of the technical stuff is worked out, they will be using dynamics and phrasing to really add an element of connection with the audience. In other words, as Moffatt said, they want to turn these songs into a story and not just a piece of music.

All state finalists are as listed: HHS Madrigals as a chamber choir, Madrigals Women as an ensemble, Nic Duersch as a baritone solo, Ian Shannon as a baritone solo, Tyler Bowden as a baritone solo, Liliena Pupu’a as a soprano solo, Kara Ngu as a soprano solo, Mary Ward as a mezzo-soprano solo, Ofeina Clark as a mezzo-soprano solo, Olivia Fischer and Lizzy Leavitt as a duet, Audrey Brown as a harp solo, and Ethan Sutton as a piano solo