Soulful Tunes From Salve

Salve's Madrigals chorus performs during their annual cabaret dinner on February 21


Even for the most battle worn of creative types, finding a balance between putting money in the bank and putting time toward artistic endeavors can be a challenge. Life seems to always get in the way. Bills roll in, money rolls out, art is squeezed in here or there and the cycle repeats – a problem worsened when a creative is just starting to spread his or her wings.

Thankfully there are organizations combating this problem, such as Salve Regina’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, which holds an annual cabaret dinner benefiting the school’s Madrigals chorus and their pursuit of performing overseas. At the annual dinner, held this year on February 21 at 7pm, music melds with meals while chorus members serve, clean tables, perform, sing, run food and help in the kitchen. And they do it all for the opportunity to showcase their music for foreign audiences.

“It’s an event that raises funds for our concert tours,” says Don St. Jean, Choral Director and Director of Applied Music. “The chorus goes on concert tours approximately every four years. Last year, in 2012, we went to Greece. We performed in three different cities, three concerts, within the course of maybe five days.”

Before Greece, Madrigals went to Italy in 2008 and Ireland in 2004, with a small trip to Montreal in between. Having the ability to travel, says St. Jean, gives the chorus members a chance to learn as much about the world as their musical ability. It also introduces them to real-world conflict, as was the case of their 2012 Greece visit.

“We traveled to Greece during the height of the unrest,” says St. Jean, adding that he “thought the students were going to drop out [of the trip].” But all of them went, and all of them saw both the beauty of Greece and the effects of its slow financial decay.
It’s important to note, though, that the cabaret dinner in no way raises enough money for a whole chorus group to afford a week overseas. In fact,says St. Jean, the dinner “doesn’t raise anywhere near the amount we need, but it does bring awareness to the fact that we’re going on a trip. Everybody comes to this cabaret dinner to support that, and it’s just a good feeling for the chorus in their pursuit of concert tours.”

More importantly, it’s a good time for all. The evening opens with the whole chorus performing together, followed by solos, duets and small ensembles. Some members play instruments while others sing. Some play while singing. Some just sing. The musical smorgasbord offered up by the evening provides a feast for the ears as much as the meals are a feast for the palate.

At time of writing, St. Jean is still ironing out the final menu details, but he assures that it will resemble last year’s menu: a choice between baked stuffed sole with lobster sauce, marinated grilled chicken with sundried tomatoes and caramelized onion cream sauce or vegetarian portabella napoleon. Last year’s dinners also came with roasted red bliss potatoes, sauteed green beans, a dessert of apple blossoms and coffee or tea.

“The trips are out of pocket for the students, and they have to do a lot of other fundraisers or saving to fund their trip, but the [cabaret dinner] reinforces their commitment to the trip’s success. They have to work hard to get what they want, and that’s what they do.”