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History of Madrigalia

Since 1975, Madrigalia has distinguished itself as one of the finest chamber choirs in all of Rochester and western New York. The ensemble is known for its quality performances of unique repertoire spanning over six centuries.

At the beginning, rehearsals were held in members’ homes with the requisite food and drink, and were as much social as musical. Founding member Deb Stahl suggested the name “Madrigalia” and the rest, as they say, is history. Member Bob Dwelley, a doctoral candidate at Eastman School of Music and Director of Music at St. Bernard’s Seminary, was soon selected as the first Music Director. 

Madrigalia’s stature in the Rochester music community and beyond grew rapidly, with multiple performances and collaborations throughout western New York. Community collaborations were crucial to this development, and the ensemble’s long-standing association with Rochester’s public radio station WXXI-FM has produced several concert recordings and national broadcasts. 

When Robert Dwelley left Madrigalia in 1988, the small circle of friends singing madrigals for fun had been transformed into an ensemble with a recognized sound and place in the Rochester community. In 1989 Roger Wilhelm joined Madrigalia as its second director. His skill at developing unique and cleverly constructed concerts came to define the Madrigalia concert experience. For the next twenty years, audiences were treated to “Songs of our Politics” for Election Day, “The Singing of the Green” for Saint Patrick’s Day, “Another Bloomin’ Concert” for spring and “A Funny Thing Happened…” just for fun. Lee Wright became Madrigalia’s third music director in 2009, and made his mark on the ensemble by challenging singers and audiences alike with a still greater variety of repertoire and musical styles. Madrigalia will announce its fourth director in early 2014.

Madrigalia’s emphasis on unique programming has led to countless concerts featuring premieres of new or forgotten compositions as well as under-performed works. In 2004, Madrigalia was one of a select number of ensembles chosen to perform at the Eastern Division Conference of the American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA) held in Boston. A 2006 collaboration with Rochester composer Glen McClure produced Starry Messenger, a work based on letters from Galileo, which earned Madrigalia the 2007 Alice Parker/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming from Chorus America. In 2008, Madrigalia collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Robert Ward to perform his Images of God; in 2010 the ensemble commissioned internationally known composer Libby Larsen to compose Chain of Hope, a work based on the relationship between notable Rochesterians Frederick Douglass and Susan B, Anthony. 2011 saw the ensemble collaborate for the premiere of Exsultet Terra by American composer Hilary Tann.

Madrigalia has produced six recordings: With Heart and Voice – Anthems Across America (1993), With Heart and Voice - Christmas Across America (1996), Christmas With Harp and Voice (2001), Madrigalia Live at Christmas (2003), Music from the Emerald Isle (2006), and Shining Night (2011). Our newest recording, For Better, For Worse - the Music of Marriage, will be released in fall 2014.

Madrigalia is a proud member of Chorus America, the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester and the Greater Rochester Choral Consortium.