About

HISTORY OF MADRIGAL CHORALE

For more than a century, Madrigal Chorale 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 it’s 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 ha d been disbanded due to loss of sponsorship and house of performance) 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 and remains in that position today. Under the leadership of Dr. Martin, MC’s artistic horizon continues to expand.

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 the White House, Boston and Carnegie Hall ; 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 2013, MC was was honored to be the lead choir in the premier performance of “I Believe, A Shoah Requiem”, by Hazzan Gross, in remembrance of the Holocaust.

Our history includes several collaborations with other chorales including Musica Gloria in Ontario, Livingston County Chorale, Cantata Academy, Oakland University,  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.  It is as a proud member of the Stacey V. Gibbs Chorale, MC performed again at Carnegie Hall on April 9, 2017. 

MC revived the scholarship competitions approximately 25 years ago, giving approximately $3,000 in money each year to promising high school vocal music students for their pursuit of higher education.  Last year we changed the format of the competition.  In view of the deteriorating money allotted to the arts in local high schools, we changed the format to have Class B, C, and D high schools compete for the money, to be used for their music programs.

In addition, MC has performed benefit concerts for several 501C3 organizations.  The beneficiaries have included Habitat for Humanity, The Haven, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Michigan, Ryan Rocks Outdoor Adventures, and Children’s Leukemia Foundation to name a few.   This past concert year, we changed the format to visit “home” for 3 different groups of people.  We sang for the Sisters of Mercy, Veterans at the VA Hospital in Detroit, and seniors at the Glen Oaks Retirement Community.

MC has also produced four highly successful CD recordings.