painting by Marsha Braun

Imagine you’re exploring a street fair on a warm spring day. In busy booths, street vendors sell jewelry, incense, handmade crafts, delicious exotic snacks. All at once you come upon a circle of animated men and women dressed in bright Renaissance garb, singing joyfully. One of them turns and beckons you into the center of the circle, where several other fair dwellers are listening intently with eyes closed. You hesitate, but after a bit of friendly cajoling, you agree to enter. As you quiet yourself, you are astonished by the sound of the music. Turning, you can hear each voice clearly; they blend and intertwine in delicate harmonies, sometimes haunting, sometimes playful, in rich unison and complex counterpoint.

This is Madrigali, a group of musical performers singing traditional Renaissance and medieval music — a cappella madrigals, folk songs, ballads, chants and carols, almost all of it written prior to 1650. Madrigali seeks to bring this once wildly popular music back to life, not in some stuffy academic setting, but full of spirit, color, drama, and emotion — romantic, fanciful, bawdy, joyous.

Madrigali performs throughout the year, generally in and around Southern California. The group sings at numerous outdoor fairs, including the huge Southern and Northern California Renaissance Faires. Madrigali also performs regularly at private functions such as fund raisers, weddings, and Yuletide parties.

Vintage Madrigali

Here’s a full Madrigali performance in 2001, before the Ojai Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Falstaff”.