August 2, 2021

The ‘Quarantine Madrigals’ are a choir for one

Conspirare premieres the work by Reena Esmail and Amy Fogerson, devised to be sung alone or together

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To sing in a choir is as much about the music as it is about the communal act of singing together.

A choral rehearsal was one of the first documented super-spreader events as the coronavirus arrived in the United States a year ago. And since then, choristers have lamented the isolation.

Enter The Quarantine Madrigals, a new work that Conspirare will premiere at 7 p.m. March 15 in a free streaming concert at conspirare.org/quarantine-madrigals

Th eight piece work, by composer Reena Esmail and poet Amy Fogerson, is intended, Esmail says, to “trace the break from society, the descent into isolation, and the eventual return to one another” experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fogerson, a Los Angeles Master Chorale singer, first conceived of the project last summer, writing a haiku about isolation and a singer’s longing for other vocalists. Esmail set it as a madrigal, a Renaissance song genre for unaccompanied voices set mostly to secular poetry. Together, Esmail and Fogerson wrote eight madrigals.



Said Esmail: “There is something about the madrigal form and how it changed over the years (and could hold so many stylistic changes and innovations, follow a story, paint a picture etc.) that made me feel it could actually encompass the breadth of this experience.”

And Esmail also devised the piece so that any individual singer can record the different parts using a multi-track app. The result, a choir of one.

Conspirare will present all of the madrigals performed by Conspirare singers in pre-recorded videos.

Following the March 15 premiere, each madrigal will be featured in a weekly “Madrigal Mondays” on Conspirare’s Facebook page beginning March 22. Each of the Conspirare singer videos will be made available from anywhere to download, making it easy for singers in isolation to perform.


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