An Anthem of Renaissance Sound
Writer Fadi Sitto
Have you ever wondered what sound a color makes? What if the sky, the ocean or the mountains could sing? After only a few seconds of listening to the Boulder Creek Madrigal Singers, I’m convinced that I now know.
Old World echoes and fairy tales hum. The renaissance sounds of a virtuous Medieval-voiced art form lives and thrives at Boulder Creek High School.
This collection of extraordinary young students have refreshingly adopted the descriptive expression of the madrigal, emotively unique and driven in their pursuits of grand harmonies.
The Boulder Creek Madrigal Singers are a two-chorale ensemble that exquisitely sings Renaissance-era repertoire as well as traditional selected holiday pieces for their lucky audiences. They joyfully and effortlessly sing and perform in elegant classical style period costumes, which is quite unusual for Arizona and this part of the United States.
A madrigal is an intricate unaccompanied vocal music genre originated and developed in northern Italy during the 14th century. This form of vocal chamber music and composition ultimately achieved renowned international status in the late 16th and 17th centuries. In Italy, the madrigal was the most significant secular form of music of its time.
Madrigal was especially popular in Italy and England, but in time became so popular that composers from most of Europe started to write in the madrigal genre, solving the problematic details of setting a secular poem or a sonnet to music.
The composers of the time attempted to express the deep-rooted emotion contained in each poetic line, and sometimes even the individual words of a celebrated poem. They composed specifically for a small group of singers, typically from four to six vocalists.
At Boulder Creek, talented student-singers commit to their craft.
“We work during the lunch period and the kids get no grades or school credit. They love to sing that much. They’re really terrific young people,” says Nancie Tobison, Boulder Creek choir music director.
The Boulder Creek choral program has been impressively established and curated over the past decade by venerated music director Kirk Douglas. Today, Nancie Tobison is grateful to join him working in a program that is not only exceptional but a blessing to the Anthem community.
Nancie is the perfect mentor for this group of kids and for the program—a perfect match. She was a finalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award in 2015 and was honored by Choirs of America in 2014 on the stage at Carnegie Hall for her contributions to choral education. Her world-class choirs have performed at the Sydney Opera House, the White House and the Olympic Overture to both the Beijing and London games.
The atmosphere within the choir is incredibly close knit, with impressive student camaraderie and leadership. There are over 250 students in the overall choral program and they perform and compete nationally at the highest level.
From Boulder Creek’s Broadway Bound mixed show ensemble to their Bella Voca group, the program has succeeded in harnessing the skills of detail and focus, to go along with the natural talent of each choir member.
Nancie explains that theory and musicianship are integral parts of the school’s program. There are six choirs that meet every day there is something for everyone who has the passion of being a part of an amazing team and family.
The Boulder Creek Madrigal Singers had the honor of performing at the White House last year and were so inspiring that they are invited again to showcase their skills this month.
“I had the opportunity of going to Washington last year with the Boulder Creek madrigal group. I am set to go again this year and I couldn’t be more excited,” said Katelyn Spriggs, Boulder Creek madrigal singer.
She added, “Last year’s trip was an experience of a lifetime. We went from the capital to the White House, singing on the streets and singing for a couple hundred people.”
Katelyn expresses the true connection of the program. It’s clear that this is a special group of talented Arizonans. They become almost a family—more than classmates, more than friends.
The Boulder Creek Madrigal Singers proudly yet humbly show off their “outside voices,” with a pure rhythm and rhyme that will surely stand the test of time.
If you listen with your ears, you’ll hear the beauty of music, softly and smoothly, thundering from the vocal chords of these gifted young women and men.
If you listen with your heart, you’ll not only hear that sound-moving beauty, but you’ll understand why they are singing.