Raising their voices: The Riverside-Brookfield High School Madrigals practice Jan. 17 before heading downstate. The choral group includes front row, from left: Abby Louthen and Eileena Giurini; and back row, from left: Mitchell Malloy, and Jeff Ringbloom.DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer

For Riverside-Brookfield High School choir director Diane Marelli, it is the ultimate honor and challenge — showing off her top group to her peers.

This weekend, an RBHS singing group will perform this weekend at a conference of music educators. The Madrigals, made up of 19 students, will sing seven pieces Saturday morning at the Illinois Music Educators annual conference in Peoria.

“It’s really quite an honor, because I think there are only about six choirs performing,” said Marelli, who serves as Fine Arts Division chairwoman and leads all of the school’s choirs. “I don’t believe that any ensemble from RB has ever performed at this conference. It’s a pretty lofty audience. It really is an honor for RB to be performing at this conference.”

The Madrigals, consisting of 10 girls and nine boys this year, were selected to perform at the conference after Marelli sent in an application that included an audition tape. The application had to be sent in far ahead of time and, as a result, featured last year’s Madrigals group, which was perhaps the best ever group at the school.

“Last year’s group was unbelievable,” Marelli said. “They were fabulous.”

Only three members of this year’s Madrigals — Samantha Goldsmith, Abby Louthen and Kristin Tomecek — returned from last year’s senior dominated group. The 2012-13 group has a little different sound, according to Marelli.

“They have a younger sound, and I like it,” Marelli said. “I like their sound very much.”

Marelli said this group has worked really hard to measure up to their predecessors.

“I didn’t know if I would ever have a group as good as last year’s,” Marelli said. “Well, I do. I do have a group as good as last year’s, because these kids have really risen to the occasion.

“I think they have made more improvement more quickly than any group I’ve ever had.”

Two members of the Madrigals, Joe Rogers and Marco Severini, will receive all-state honors this weekend, while another, Annie Mitchell, will participate in a coveted seminar for future music educators.

“It’s a lot more commitment than some of the other choirs,” said Rogers, a junior tenor. “There’s a lot of outside of school performances. We have to learn a much bigger repertoire and much faster. And much of our music is a cappella as opposed to with piano accompaniment.”

Madrigal groups traditionally sing unaccompanied by music and focus on Renaissance and early Baroque music. However, Marelli has her group sing a wide range of musical genres.

“I like singing different styles,” Marelli said. “If I had to stick to one period of music, I don’t think I could do it.”

That love of variety will be on display Saturday.

The Madrigals will sing a couple of early choral numbers, a Portuguese folk song; a religious chant in Latin, “O Magnum Mysterium,” which features soaring voices; a contemporary vocal jazz number; and a Negro spiritual, “Soon I Will Be Done.”

“They’re a pretty flexible group; they get different styles,” Marelli said.

With their performance approaching, nerves and anticipation are building.

“I’m really nervous, but I know it will be fine because we have rehearsed so much that I think we’ll put on a good show,” said Mitchell, who is a senior at the RBHS, about singing at the conference.

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