About

History of Madrigal Chorale

For more than a century, Madrigal Chorale (MC) has served the community and enriched the cultural climate of Southeast Michigan. MC, termed “one of metro Detroit’s artistic jewels,” is comprised of approximately forty men and women, all competitively auditioned, who share an unequaled commitment to excellence in vocal music performance. They continue to come from all walks of life; their common bond is love of music.

MC has a rich history of choral performance and community service dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. In September 1900, the Orpheus Club of Detroit was formed with 12 members. Mr. Samuel Richards Gaines was the first director and they held rehearsals at his recording studio. Their first public performance was held on April 2, 1901 at the old Light Guard Armory, as a last minute substitute for booked entertainment. The first complete concert was held on May 28, 1901 at the Old Church of Our Father.

In October, 1911, Dr. Frederick Morse became the director. It was decided that the Orpheus Club would give two concerts per year. He insisted upon the performance of only the best choral literature from simple folk songs to the great works of ancient and modern composers.

In 1914, Mr. Morse decided that there was a need for a female chorus in the Detroit area, so he formed the Madrigal Club of Detroit. It was comprised of 16 women who were auditioned. They performed concerts on their own and also in conjunction with the Orpheus Club and The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Many of the members were among the "Who's Who" of the musical world in Detroit, among them Jeanne Ground, Mrs. John Coulter and Justine Noetzel.

An association with the DSO and its director, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, was begun in 1919. This culminated in performances with the DSO and DSO Chorale of the “Bach Passion According to St. Matthew” on Palm Sunday in 1926 and 27. Mr. Morse retired in 1946.

In 1950, the Orpheus Club joined the Madrigal Club of Detroit and The Little Symphony (DSO had been disbanded due to loss of sponsorship and performance space) at the Masonic Temple to introduce Leonard Bernstein to Michigan audiences. Demand was so great that general admission tickets were sold to the dress rehearsal!

A series of directors including Dr. W. Lloyd Kemp, Hayden Morgan, Dr. Harry Langsford, William Koerper and George F. Thomas followed.

In 1980, a new choir was formed from the members of the Orpheus Club and the Madrigal Club under the sponsorship of the Southfield Department of Parks and Recreation. This new mixed voice ensemble took on the name Madrigal Chorale of Southfield. The chorale maintained the classical tradition of its predecessors, yet broadened its repertoire to include more 20th century music — popular, jazz, spiritual and ethnic. In 1981, MCS began performances under the direction of Artistic Director Carolyn Eynon. In 1989, Dr. Robert A. Martin was named the second Artistic Director of MCS. In 2017, Dr. Martin announced his retirement and Dr. Brandon Ulrich was named Artistic Director. In 2018, the Madrigal Chorale Board of Directors named Dr. Martin their Director Emeritus.

In addition to a full local concert season, the accomplishments of this collegial group include performances under the baton of world renowned conductors Leonard Bernstein, Neeme Järvi, Rachel Worby, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Erich Kunzel; appearances in venues across North America including Washington D.C., Boston and New York City; concert tours of England, Wales, Italy, Austria and France; regular performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; and local radio and TV broadcasts. MCS was featured at the 1995 Midwest Music Conference in Ann Arbor during the prestigious invitational Choral Hour sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association. In 2001, MCS performed in the Strickler Concert Series at Albion College and in 2003 at Interlochen. In 2009 and 2015, MC had the honor of performing in Bay View’s Concert Series, and in 2010, MC performed at the American Choral Directors Association at Central Michigan University. In 2012, Madrigal Chorale of Southfield shortened its name to Madrigal Chorale. In remembrance of the Holocaust, MC was honored to be the lead choir in the 2013 premiere performance of “I Believe, A Shoah Requiem” by Hazzan Daniel Gross.

Madrigal Chorale has represented Michigan and inspired audiences across the U.S. and abroad. In 2018, we toured in Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa, and performed in the Notre Dame Basilica and The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. These famous venues add to the list of places where Madrigal Chorale has performed which include the National Cathedral, Carnegie Hall, Interlochen, Harvard’s Holden Chapel, JFK Memorial Library, the White House, on board an AmaWaterways 7-day Seine River Cruise in France, and the Duomo in Florence, Italy.

MC’s history includes collaborations with artists and organizations representing diverse artistic disciplines and experiences, including: Motor City Brass Band, Hazzan David Propis, Oakland University Choirs and Symphony Orchestra, Spectrum Orchestra, Stoney Creek High School Choir, Rochester Community Chorus, soloists from Michigan Opera Theatre, Musical Gloria in Ontario, Livingston County Chorale, Cantata Academy, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Choirs, Rochester College Choir, The Stacey V. Gibbs Chorale,  St. John Fisher Church Choir, and Glen Oaks Men’s Glee Club. In April 2017, acclaimed composer, clinician and arranger, Stacey V. Gibbs, handpicked MC as the Choir in Residence for the Stacey Gibbs Chorale, which performed under his direction at Carnegie Hall, with other choirs from around the United States.

Throughout its history, Madrigal Chorale has teamed up with nonprofit organizations to bring awareness to important causes.  For many years, Madrigal Chorale hosted a Benefit Concert to raise funds for local charities.  The beneficiaries included Habitat for Humanity, The Haven, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Michigan, and Ryan Rocks!!! Outdoor Adventures, a Metro Detroit-based organization that provides pediatric cancer patients with a fun adventure. Madrigal Chorale now channels its dedication to those who are unable to come to us by going to them. Over the years, the group has brought music to residents at Fox Run Retirement Community in Novi, the retired Sisters of Mercy in Farmington Hills, and military veterans at the Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.

The Vocal Scholarship Competition is another avenue where Madrigal Chorale gives back, in this case to the next generation of singers. Over 24 consecutive seasons, MC has given nearly $70,000 to high school individual vocalists through this initiative. In light of the decrease in arts funding to high schools, the format of the competition changed in 2018.  Instead of solo awards, Class B, C and D high school choirs in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties compete for a $1000 prize in the Scholarship Competition. In addition to performing, the students benefit from a clinic with professional adjudicators and a shared concert with Madrigal Chorale. Over the last two years, MC has been proud to award $5000 to outstanding smaller arts programs that need extra support

Fans of Madrigal Chorale who are not able to attend a concert or would like unlimited access to its beautiful music can purchase any of its four highly successful professional CD recordings including a 100th Anniversary commemorative CD available on the website.