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UND plans 'Winter Wunderland' after decades of madrigal dinner

Changing Christmas traditions can be risky. Nevertheless, the UND Department of Music has decided to suspend its annual Madrigal dinner this year and instead produce a Winter Wunderland, where guests will enjoy a somewhat different holiday experi...

Changing Christmas traditions can be risky. Nevertheless, the UND Department of Music has decided to suspend its annual Madrigal dinner this year and instead produce a Winter Wunderland, where guests will enjoy a somewhat different holiday experience.

Organizers are calling it a "sparkling holiday gala" that will feature more than 200 of UND's finest musicians, performing treasured music from popular holiday songs to classic carols, and a five-course dinner.

The musicians will perform on a wintry set with snow and trees and lots of beautiful lights, said Joshua Bronfman, choral director at UND. Although the musicians will be dressed in tuxedos and gowns, there won't be a dress code for guests. Organizers don't want the event to be buttoned up and stuffy.

"The evening will be beautiful and elegant and bring home the feeling of the season. That's really important to us," Bronfman said.

Winter Wunderland will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 in the UND Memorial Union Ballroom. Performers will be the UND Concert Choir, Varsity Bards, Allegro Women's Choir, Varsity Gentlemen, Chamber Choir, Trumpet Ensemble and Faculty Brass Trio.

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Also featured: One of the area's favorite bands, Jazz on Tap, with special guest Matt Strand performing from the classic Vince Guaraldi holiday album "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Tickets (including a five-course meal with a beef, chicken or vegetarian option) will be $40, and $20 for students with a valid UND student ID. Tables of eight will be $298. Tickets are available now at Chester Fritz box office, (701) 777-4090, or at Ticketmaster.com. For group rates, call (701) 777-2646.

Bronfman said Winter Wunderland was an experiment for the UND music department, which has been hosting the Madrigal dinner for decades.

"We did love the Madrigal dinner," he said. "We don't abandon the tradition lightly and we're not really abandoning it. It's a one year experiment."

Part of the impetus for trying something new was an invitation the UND Concert Choir has to perform at the North Central American Choral Directors Association convention in early February in Madison, Wis. Preparing for the Madrigal would make it difficult to prepare for the convention, Bronfman said.

"That got the ball rolling," he said. "But I've been having this idea for a long time."

A madrigal is a full-on musical theater production with a certain kind of music from a certain historical period. Winter Wunderland will give UND the option of different music and a different performance style.

"I think people are cautiously optimistic," Bronfman said of the reaction to the switch so far. "I think that the reaction has been positive. No one wants to see the Madrigal dinner go away, but if there is something new and different, they are excited about it. We know it's a risk. We know that it's different."

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If you go

- What: Winder Wunderland, a night of music and a five-course dinner, presented by the UND Department of Music

- When and where: 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3, UND Memorial Union Ballroom

- Tickets: General admission, 40; Students with valid UND ID; $20; Table of eight, $298. Available at Chester Fritz Auditorium box office; call (701) 777-4090; or go to Ticketmaster.com. Group rates: (701) 777-2646.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com .

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