Every restraint is an opportunity for a composer. During the pandemic, I thought about what it meant for choral singers, who are used to the feeling of singing together, to be isolated.
What follows is a set of short, two-minute madrigals (yes, the title is a play on ‘florentine madrigal’) that trace the break from society, the descent into isolation, and the eventual return to one another. Each madrigal slowly loses one voice at a time until the middle of the piece, and then gains a voice back until the end. The entire set is designed to be sung by a single singer, of any voice type, recording the parts over themselves — the music is flexible enough that even a simple smartphone app like Acapella can support it).
This piece was a collaboration with Amy Fogerson, a lifelong ensemble singer who I have worked with for years, in so many capacities. Amy wrote me many options of each haiku, and then when the music was written, she test-recorded each madrigal to make sure it worked effectively for a single singer to compile. I wrote the music, but Amy did pretty much everything else!
If you are a choral singer, missing your choir, I hope this set resonates with you. I hope it challenges you in some of the ways you loved to be challenged in ensemble singing, and I hope it feels like fun to build a multi-movement, multi-part ensemble work with just the sound of your own voice.
Even though this work is conceived for a single singer to record alone, it can certainly also be done in a variety of other settings, especially as the distance closes between us.
You might consider recording the work with other friends who share the same voice type (or general range) as you. Record one part and send it off to the next person (you can do this in most multi-track recording apps). Or you might consider a socially distanced performance of this work with four singers (of any voice type, as long as it’s the same). Maybe stand in four corners of a room or outdoor patio. Or if you are in a large, cavernous space, you might consider doing each movement with an ensemble of different singers. If one singer sings each part, you will need 19 singers total (I know, I know – it was a coincidence), and everyone can sing the Postlude at the end. There are so many options for unusual staging here.
Have fun with these tiny pieces, and make them your own.
Quarantine Madrigal 1 (premiered March 22, 2021):
Quarantine Madrigal #2-#7 and Postlude to come on subsequent Mondays!
This piece was commissioned by Conspirare. Virtual premieres will take place from March 22 to May 10 2021.
The Quarantine Madrigals Are a Choir for One — read the full article about the piece at Sightlines Magazine
Conspirare’s Quarantine Madrigals Creates a Choir of One — read the full article about the piece at Austin Chronicle