By: Melody Worsham
The gentry have been invited once again to the castle. The king has prepared a hearty feast for all! There will be singing and comedy. Food is served by the castle’s servants and the jester keeps things moving. It is a Christmas celebration straight from the Renaissance – and you are invited!
For thirteen years, the Gautier high School Choral Department has presented the Holiday Madrigal Feast in the most traditional style and open to the public. The brainstorm of Dr. John Odom, the production is now led by Choral Director Kathy Smith and Drama Director, Amanda Brown. All of the singing and drama are performed by the students. Kathy said that the annual madrigal really gets to her. And this feeling is shared by those who have enjoyed the feast in years past. Madrigal music truly is a magical performance of more than 60 voices “a cappella,” which means “chapel style,” or singing without instrumental accompaniment. The harmonic singing fills the room unrivaled by flute or trumpet.
The high school’s Media Center is “transformed into a castle,” Kathy said. It’s cozy and comfortable, making the guests feel like friends of royalty. The night begins with the Royal Court procession. Once the King and Queen (played by Deven Mendoza and Casey Boykin) are seated, the wassail begins. A wassail is a toast to the king’s good health and to the festivities ahead. The servants bring out the food. This year the gentry will feast upon pork tenderloin, brown rice, green beans and red velvet cake. Then, the drama begins all around you. But you are not a mere spectator! The court’s jester, played by Courtney Bardwell, will encourage your participation as the drama is played out through the castle. “You shouldn’t turn your back on the actors!” Kathy said with a giggle. There is something going on everywhere in the room. And one party guest will be picked to play a very special part in the performance. “They don’t know they’re going to be picked,” Kathy said with a sly smile.
The drama is lighthearted and will keep you laughing heartily. This year, the story, entitled, “Jester, The Body Ventures Forth,” is about two sisters, Olivia and Gorgonzola, played by Kelly Davis and Ashton Ord. Both are seeking husbands, but the not-so-fair of the two maidens must be the first to be married. Who will they choose? And how will they execute their clever plans for matrimony? As you enjoy your feast, the performers entertain and regale you. At evening’s end, you will hear traditional Christmas carols sung with angelic perfection.
Kathy said that the Madrigal Feast is the highlight of her school year. The students prepare with intensity. To be in the Royal Court, the students must be a member of the school’s madrigal and eligible for state and regional competitions. The Servants are the Concert Choir students of the high school. The culmination of the school year’s hard work and practice culminates, “at a time when everything is hurried up,” Kathy said. The Madrigal Feast is a place where you can, “let the outside world go, relax and be catered to. That’s what Christmas is all about,” she said. “Coming together and relaxing.”
Kathy recommends you buy your tickets in advance. She said about 200 people attend each performance each year, and regrettably people have been turned away at the door in year’s past. “If you’ve come before,” Kathy said, “you’re not going to see the same thing.” Each year’s play is different. The Madrigal Feast is a perfect event to make part of your family’s holiday traditions.
There will be three performances this year. Thursday, December 9th, will be a dessert-only performance where you will be served “a wedge, not a slice,” of red velvet cake, Kathy said. Friday and Saturday, December 10th and 11th, will feature the full feast. All three nights will enjoy the full madrigal performance. For advance tickets, stop by the Gautier High School office or call 228-522-8803. Glæd Geol! Peace to you and yours!