The Highland Madrigals


Daria Khajavi

The Madrigals practice for the holiday season.

Rachael Maughan, Feature Editor

A heavenly chorus emerges from an often forgotten hall of Highland. Room B114 houses the source of the sound that comes from the Madrigals.
Katie Houston, the choir director, stands at the front of the room instructing her students. Under her supervision, the Madrigals practice for the upcoming holiday season and the many performances that come with it. They will perform at places within the Highland community as well as places far outside its reach. Within the community are performances at Freedom Landing and the VA, both are places that help veterans, a community center called the Columbus Center, the Garden Club, the LDS hospital for patients in the bone marrow unit and for the staff, and the Kiwanis Club, who has helped the musical program at Highland with a yearly donation. Outside the community are performances in Temple Square when the light display is up, the Assembly Hall, and the Joseph Smith Memorial building.
But while all these performances are away from home, the Madrigals also hold concerts every term at Highland, along with the choir. This year the holiday concert will be on December 18.
The prep for the holiday season begins directly after the October concert at the end of term one and goes all the way through November. In just a few short weeks the Madrigals have to learn eight songs. To ensure this happens, Houston conducts memorization tests where one student from each part — soprano, alto, tenor, and bass — have to perform a song in front of the whole class.
“[T]hey have to sing it from memory and know their notes and know their words and it really scares them so they actually go home and practice,” Houston said.
A lot of hard work and practice is put into being a Madrigal. To become one it is required to pass a sight reading test, sing in tune, and be able to sing a part solo. Since this isn’t common knowledge, some people think it’s not a difficult class and commitment.
“It’s harder than you think,” Laurel Hilterbrand, senior at Highland and choir president and member of Madrigals, said. “It’s so technical to make a piece sound the way it does. It takes things like dynamics and breath support and all these different things you wouldn’t think you need to be able to sing.”
It takes many skills to be in Madrigals, but it also takes a lot of time. The group has to perform 17 times in just 12 days, and many of the performances are back to back and last 30 to 45 minutes. While it can be tedious and stressful to sing the same songs this many times, members also have to sometimes miss school and take time out of their evenings. Though this is difficult, Hilterbrand thinks it’s doable.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I think as long as we’re able to focus on our music we’ll be able to focus on school too,” Hilterbrand said.
Despite all the commitment and struggles that come with the holiday season, it’s the main reason that many join, and it’s always worth it.
“I do [think it’s worth it]. Last year we were able to go around the community singing for Christmas,” Hilterbrand said. “It’s just the joy that people get when they hear the singing, it’s really beautiful. We’ve had people cry because of our singing. It’s just such satisfying to be able to help people and bring them some joy this holiday season when they can’t find it any other way.”
While these performances help those who hear them, they also help the Madrigals. Though it isn’t a solo performance, it can take a lot of courage and confidence to sing in front of many audiences. Using this as a starting point has helped members grow in confidence.
Madrigals is also a great way to be involved at school and feel a part of the Ram Fam. At almost every assembly the Madrigals perform and show their skills to the rest of the student body, and the excitement from the audience could make anyone feel at home.
Being a part of the choir and Madrigals has also given students the chance to work for something for themselves, rather than just for a grade.
“It’s taught me just how to really put in a lot of hard work for something that isn’t going to affect the rest of my life,” Hilterbrand said. “This just really taught me how to work hard for something that I wanted to do.”
Perhaps most importantly, the group of singers are a team who work together and look out for each other. Teamwork comes from not only performing together, but also from working out how to blend with others singing and listening to each other. Friendship follows the sense of camaraderie.
“It’s brought me so many new friends,” Hilterbrand said. “[T]he community is so kind and they just really make it a place I want to be and the people are so nice that I never want to say goodbye to that, but I’m glad I was able to be part of choir with those people.”
This team of students at Highland are an important part of the community, and show the value of hard work every time they perform.
“These kids are amazing,” Houston said. “[A] really important part of my philosophy as a teacher is how to take music out into the world and how to make the world a better place.”
These students use their skills to brighten the world for those who can’t always on their own during the holiday season, and bring music into the lives of everyone in the community, most definitely fulfilling Houston’s philosophy.