The Madison Early Music Festival was created in 2000 to provide an opportunity for musicians, scholars, teachers and early music enthusiasts to gather and exchange information and ideas about medieval, Renaissance and baroque music and to bring acclaimed early music artists to the Midwest to perform in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. There are opportunities for everyone, from those who simply enjoy listening to concerts and lectures to early music scholars, and performance opportunities for amateurs and professionals. All listeners, singers, players and dancers are welcome!
The Festival Concert Series consists of 6 concerts and includes performances by ensembles-in-residence, as well as a Participant Concert and All-Festival Concert. In the Participant Concert, free to the public, participant consorts showcase the skills they have achieved under the coaching of MEMF faculty during the week. The All-Festival Concert, the culmination of the week, highlights faculty as well as participants. Each evening concert includes a pre-concert lecture by a renowned scholar and/or performer on a topic related to the Festival theme.
Workshop classes occupy five days of the Festival, with offerings ranging from beginner-level instruction to advanced master classes and consorts. Class topics include vocal and instrumental technique, historical performance practices and specific early music repertoires. Instruction in historical dance is offered as evening "recreation" as well, in some years, a regular daytime class. A midday lecture series expands evening pre-concert lectures for workshop participants and includes additional lectures.
Special events that are open to the public take place throughout the week of the Festival. There are several mid-day “bonus” lectures that are free and open to the public and a ball featuring period dance instruction and music provided by the MEMF faculty – costumes welcome.
MEMF is also a presenting partner for the Handel Aria Competition. The competition, sponsored by MEMF supporters Dean and Orange Schroeder, is the only such competition in the country. The final round is held during the week of the Festival as a concert that is open to the public. In addition to the winners determined by a panel of distinguished judges, the audience chooses an audience favorite. Learn more.
MEMF collaborates with other early music performers and presenters in and near Madison in order to cultivate local early music activity. In addition to partnering with major presenters such as Early Music Now and the Wisconsin Union Theater to host visiting ensembles during the year, we maintain a list of early music events in the area. See Early Music Events in the Area» to view the calendar and submit events. MEMF also sponsors entertaining, theme-related fundraising events taking place in the Madison area throughout the year.
The annual Festival and Workshop takes place on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in the George L. Mosse Humanities Building near the shores of beautiful Lake Mendota and the college-town atmosphere of State Street. Museums, bicycle and nature trails, sailing, interesting architecture and culturally historical sites and a broad selection of restaurants, pubs and ice cream and cheese shops (a local specialty in the Dairy State!) are just a sampling of the leisure options available to summertime visitors.