Audience participates in ‘Madrigal Feaste’

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Dec. 13, 2012
The Royal Court, at the 26th annual Madrigal Feaste at Stafford High School, hold up cue cards for the audience to join in. (L-r) Vanessa Knowlton, Alan Bolieau, Charlotte MacGregor and Oliver Wentworth. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.
The Royal Court, at the 26th annual Madrigal Feaste at Stafford High School, hold up cue cards for the audience to join in. (L-r) Vanessa Knowlton, Alan Bolieau, Charlotte MacGregor and Oliver Wentworth. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.

Over the course of three days, more than 500 lucky guests enjoyed a food, song and merriment at the 26th annual Madrigal Feaste presented by the Stafford High School music department.

And they didn’t just sit and watch the antics. Enclosed in the walls of an elaborately decorated castle complete with a turret, guests were often called upon to take part in the festivities.

Dads (and grand-dads) danced a jig with damsels. And raffle winners were required to comply with requests from Jester “the Body” Ventures Forth before accepting their prize – whether it was a ballerina pirouette performed by a reluctant dad or a loud yodel from a young lady at the back of the room.

Guests also were instructed in the language of the land – a stylized gibberish – and prompted with cue cards held aloft by the royals on the dais.

Throughout the feast – of stuffed chicken, baked potato, vegetables and for dessert, tiny cakes standing in for figgie pudding – servers dressed as knights, fairies and “wenches” made sure there was plenty of grog (cider) and hot coffee.

Between chapters of a story in which a visiting king attempted to marry off his daughters – including a bearded, male stand-in for the daughter who decided to run away – the audience was treated to a musical montage that included medieval and Victorian tunes, as well as more contemporary Christmas classics.

Usually the cut-off for the number of tickets to each performance is 160, “but I have a hard time saying ‘no,’” said the event’s coordinator, Laurie Dillon, who has served as Stafford High School’s music director for 27 years. There were 182 guests at the Sunday performance.

Dillon created the first Madrigal Feaste 26 years ago, inspired by one she enjoyed when she was in college, she said.

This annual event brings together all the students from the music program, including the concert choir, the “ladies chorale,” the bell ensemble, a flute solo and more.

The performances also include a number of traditional dances, many of them passed down from one year to the next. Each year’s feast also has a theme. This year, it was “Children of the World,” and so, the Madrigal Feaste opened with a procession that included performers in traditional costumes from China, Egypt, Ireland and other countries, as well as one student representing native Americans.

Proceeds of the event are donated to a designated charity, although last year – the event’s silver anniversary – the event benefited 20 different charities. This year, the chosen charity is the Heifer Project, which donates livestock to those in need in different countries so they can generate their own income.

The Madrigal Feaste is one of two big events presented each year by the music students.  They also put on a coffee house based on a theme in the summer. This past August, the theme was Woodstock.


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