Looking Back: Choral Director’s Last Madrigals Season Before Retirement

The 2019 Madrigals gather for a photograph after a 6am performance at the Lake Forest Rotary Club. Director Tim Haskett has taught at LFHS since 1987.

Natasha Mah

The 2019 Madrigals gather for a photograph after a 6am performance at the Lake Forest Rotary Club. Director Tim Haskett has taught at LFHS since 1987.

Kailey Albus, Staff Writer

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Little girls look forward to high school for a multitude of reasons. For many, it’s putting on makeup for the first time, getting to drive their very own car, or even attending the fabled school dances. For some, it’s as little as being able to see their older siblings in the halls. For others, it’s the prospect of newfound independence that gets them anxious to start their four year journey at Lake Forest High School.

For me, it was putting on a Renaissance dress and singing holiday carols with the Madrigal Singers.

It wasn’t something I had dreamed of my entire life. It was hardly something I dreamed of throughout my middle school career. But something about the Lake Forest High School Madrigals struck a chord with me the moment they emerged from the wings of the Deerpath auditorium. They appeared in a colorful flock, showcasing an array of elegant fabrics, cheerful handheld instruments, and golden voices driven by their individual passions for music. From classics such as “Carol of the Bells” to obscure yet upbeat tunes such as “Riu Riu Riu,” I could tell that the simple aspect of singing for a crowd brought genuine smiles to the faces of every performer. I knew I wanted to be one of them. 

The Madrigal Singers have been a longtime holiday tradition at Lake Forest High School. The ensemble consists of freshman through senior boys as well as junior through senior girls, making sure there are enough boys to match the number of girls. The traditions in Madrigals are by themselves special: every “lord” is assigned to a “lady” with whom they hold hands throughout each performance, and their costumes are coordinated by fabric or color. In terms of musical traditions, the three student leaders conduct six carols using only minor hand and head motions, and every performance ends with a timeless rendition of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” Needless to say, the Madrigals have made their mark on this school in an unforgettably unique way.

This year marks choral director Tim Haskett’s last with the group, as he is set to take his final bow at LFHS this May before his retirement. 

“When I came here in 1987, the group only had 12 singers in it,” said Mr Haskett, who has led the Madrigals in song for the past 33 years. “Their costumes were practically non-existent, there were no instruments, and there was really little to no interest in the group itself. At that point, I made it my goal to not only expand the size of the group, but make it a more valuable experience for both the kids and their audiences.”

Under his current guidance, the Madrigals visit over 12 local country clubs, nursing homes, and schools throughout the two weeks leading up to final exams. The commitment is hefty and, at times, incredibly draining, yet both the students and their valiant director are more than willing to spread cheer even when they may be dreading their end-of-first-semester assessments. 

“Finals, especially during senior year, are particularly hard because I feel like I’ve lost the drive to perform well in my classes, but the one thing that gets me through it is the Madrigals season,” said senior student leader Abby Wickman. “The holiday music we sing and the community created within the group helps alleviate much of my stress every night.”

That community would be entirely different if it were not for the presence of Mr Haskett, and it certainly will not be the same without him next year. With 37 years of experience teaching at a variety of schools, he has always been a qualified director and constantly reminds us to put our best effort into every performance. 

I came into the high school with baseline expectations for the choir program, expecting to sing maybe once or twice a week and have a study hall for the remainder of the year. The minute I met Mr Haskett, my perception shifted and my interest spiked. He has an ability that few others possess: the ability to command the attention of a room. One minute, you will be joking around with him, discussing the many things you shouldn’t tell your wife, and the next, you’re nose deep in sheet music, cranking away at dissonant harmonies and challenging rhythms. 

But Haskett’s work ethic is hardly his most admirable quality; he has charisma like no other teacher at this school, and he makes it his goal to brighten your day the minute you walk in the room. Senior Priya Krishnaswamy praised him for this skill, saying that his “great sense of humor is what makes rehearsals and performances enjoyable in such a stressful season.”

Senior Katie Finnegan, another student leader in the ensemble, says that Mr Haskett is one of the main reasons she has cherished being in Madrigals for the past two years.

Mr Haskett gave me much more than an opportunity. He gave me the confidence to learn, to grow, and to pursue music in any way that I wished.”


“His positive attitude and sense of humor make every rehearsal and performance so much fun to be a part of, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way,” Finnegan said. “His balance between work and fun and the connections he fosters with his students are two of the many things I hope to do as well as him as an aspiring teacher.”

I’ve not only witnessed the impact Mr. Haskett has had on the choir itself or the people within it, but I’ve also felt the strides I’ve made as an individual singer. I’ve always loved to perform in any capacity, but I have never been a confident musician. I was never a gifted sight reader, never very disciplined with voice lessons, and I certainly was never willing to sing in front of others, unless it was required in a play or musical. But I had always loved singing nonetheless. I didn’t care that I wasn’t a prodigy, not a Mozart in the making. All I cared about was having an opportunity to sing.

Mr Haskett gave me much more than an opportunity. He gave me the confidence to learn, to grow, and to pursue music in any way that I wished.

And now, I get to wear my silky tangerine dress with glimmering embellishments of black and gold every night at a new venue, performing for new faces and bringing joy to each one. I get to stand side-by-side with my best friends, hold my tambourine in one hand and my partner’s hand in the other, and sing songs that make my heart warm. But most of all, I get to glance over at a man that I am proud to call my teacher, smiling at each and every one of his students as he considers the magic he has created through the power of music. I am certain that middle school Kailey would be proud of where I am now.

 

So thank you, Mr Haskett, for making a little girl’s dream come true.