When Imani Nokuri first tried out for a part in Glenelg High School’s madrigal singers, she didn’t make the cut. For the then eighth grade, it was devastating.
“I just really wanted to be part of the ensemble,” Nokuri said. “It is such an awesome choir.”
Now 16 and a senior, Nokuir is a student leader in the group of 28 singers. A gifted-and-talented honors course, the Madrigal singers feature students singing traditional Renaissance and Chamber music, typically in Renaissance attire and without instruments.
“It’s part of the requirement,” said Ross Rawlings, a music teacher at Glenelg who leads the group. “Hats with feathers. Girls with hoop skirts. We’re one of the few schools that keep the Renaissance attire.”
Along with the costumes, participants must commit to performing at various outside venues, often during school hours or on weekends. Typically during the holidays, the group is asked to perform more, Rawlings said. This month it has performances at Miller’s Grant on Dec. 7, at 1 p.m., at Grace United Methodist Church, on Dec. 10, at 11 a.m., and on Dec. 12, at a private luncheon at Turf Valley.
“We ‘re racing the clock right now to get these performances ready,” Rawlings said.
Consisting of sophomores, juniors and seniors, the Madrigal chorus makes each participant audition first one-on-one with Rawlings, and then with various individuals, before being selected.
“He saw potential and my confidence,” said Jake Miu, 16, a junior who first made the group as a freshman. There are no ninth-grade students in this year’s ensemble.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” Miu said. “I was part of the middle school choirs and every year we got to come to listen to the music. I was inspired by that.”
Matthey Hulett, 18, has performed with Glenelg’s chorus throughout his high school years. Now a senior, he finally had confidence to try-out for the Madrigals. He made it.
“I love it,” Hulett said. “I have a performing background and I love the costumes.”
The school provides the costumes while the students are required to provide their own tights and slippers. Students are also asked to not wear large jewelry or draw attention to themselves as individuals with different hairstyles, etc.
“The Renaissance attire is definitely unique,” Miu said. “My first year, I couldn’t change before chorus, so I had to walk around in my tights. It took some confidence. I discovered it was something to be proud of.”
At a recent rehearsal, students formed a crescent shape with Nokuri in the center and all eyes on her for the signal to begin,. As their voices rose and fell together, students smiled and rocked to the beat they created.
“It is a huge part of my identity here at Glenelg,” Nokuri said. “I’m so proud of my part in the program.”
“This is an amazing group,” Rawllings said, of his students. “They have a lot of energy.”