The Columbus Madrigals
(Three Theatrical Choral Pieces for Treble Voices – with optional speaking parts)
1. Buscar Al Levante Por El Poniente
2. Prayers n the Cathedral of the Sea
3. A Daily Journal
III. Into Your Hands (Last Words)
Lyrics and libretto by Alicia Carpenter
Music by Dan Locklair
The Columbus Madrigals (Three Theatrical Choral Pieces for Treble Voices) was the result of a 1991 commission from The Singing Boys of Pennsylvania (K. Bernard Schade, Director) honoring the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. The lyrics and libretto were also the result of a commission from The Singing Boys of Pennsylvania to Alicia Carpenter. The World Premiere of the piece took place on 16 June 1991 at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
The Columbus Madrigals concentrates on three periods of Christopher Columbus’s life: The Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the voyage, and his last words. At the Court, the leading mapmakers, theologians, cosmographers, naval officers, merchants, scholars, and astrologers have been assembled to give advice as to whether the proposed voyage of Columbus should be funded. He proposed a new route could be found to India and the Orient by sailing west. Very few people were supportive of his plan and every argument based on fact or rumor was presented to dissuade a positive response. Eventually he was granted funding, but it proved difficult to assemble the crew of 120 needed to make the voyage. Partial freedom was offered to prisoners (i.e. freedom during the voyage and for two months thereafter), if they would sail with Columbus. About 75% of the crew were prisoners, pirates, murderers, robbers, pickpockets and vagrants. The rest included noblemen, professionals of various kinds, including a physician, scientists, merchants, and Columbus’ brother, who was captain of one of the smaller vessels. The crew was difficult to manage and threatened mutiny. They communicated with each other by singing the “Salve Regina.” Columbus kept an accurate journal, which Ms. Carpenter consulted in writing the libretto for The Columbus Madrigals.
Having discovered land, Columbus and crew explored the Indies for almost two months until a storm washed the Santa Maria ashore and destroyed it on Christmas Day. The entire crew then returned to Spain on the two smaller ships. Both had difficulty with extraordinary hurricanes on their return voyage. In the final scene, Columbus dies with the belief that he had found a new passage to India. He did not realize that he had discovered a new continent.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina