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The Madrigal Dinners: A Cumberland Tradition


Williamsburg, Ky. - University of the Cumberlands is part of a tradition dating back to 16th century Europe. The Madrigal dinners, performed annually on the University campus in the weeks proceeding Christmas, are steeped in an ancient tradition. The Madrigal was created in 16th century Italy, but came into its own in England during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Cumberland's Madrigal was started in 1967 by Dr. Harold Wortman, former head of the music department at the school. Mrs. Lois Wortman, widow of Dr. Wortman, and former librarian at the University said that Dr. Wortman started the Madrigal because, "A school that he taught at in South Dakota had the program and it was very successful. He wanted to start one here as well, in order to bring the college and the community closer together."

Due to the Madrigal's ancient beginning, Cumberland's event is performed in the Elizabethan style. The show is presented by the music department and is performed solely by students. It features actors in period dress, who entertain spectators with a variety of songs. The Madrigal event includes a dinner. The setting is designed in emulation of an Elizabethan court.

Mrs. Wortman said, "many elements of the tradition have changed but a lot remains the same as it was [when it first began]."

The Madrigal has been popular for all of its 38 years and is well known as a jovial kick-off for the holiday season. It is apparent the event has fulfilled Dr. Wortman's wishes for it. Students, faculty and community members alike enjoy the program.

"It is known that it has been, and continues to be, a very successful and well-loved program," said Mrs. Wortman.

This year the Madrigal dinners will be held at 6:30 p.m., November 29, and December 1-3, in the TJ Roberts Dining Hall. Tickets may be purchased by calling the music department at (606) 539-4332. Faculty, staff, and student tickets are $15 and regular tickets are $25.

University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Ky., is a private liberal arts college in its 116th year of operation. Cumberland offers four undergraduate degrees in 37 major fields of study, 30 minors and 9 pre-professional programs, as well as online and accelerated, non-traditional programs for busy adults.