Madrigal dinner back for second year

WORTHINGTON -- Encore, encore -- albeit with a new boar. The first-ever madrigal dinner, hosted last December by Worthington High School (WHS) select choral students, was such a success that the music department opted to stage another one--but th...

Bel Canto singers
Claire Bents (from left), Brianna Darling and Rachel Sternke, members of the Worthington High School Bel Canto singing group, practice Tuesday in the hall at the school.

WORTHINGTON -- Encore, encore -- albeit with a new boar.

The first-ever madrigal dinner, hosted last December by Worthington High School (WHS) select choral students, was such a success that the music department opted to stage another one--but this time, the iconic boar's head will be stuffed, not boiled.

In fact, because the 2008 performance sold out so quickly, there will be two madrigal dinners this year, the first at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and the second at 1 p.m. Dec. 13.

Good thing Kerry Johnson, in her first year as WHS choral director, is familiar with the madrigal model.

"My first experience with madrigals was during my college years at SDSU (South Dakota State University), where they have a big madrigal dinner every other year," explained Johnson. "I was in it, at the head table, for two years as part of an auditioned madrigal ensemble and really loved it."


Judging from student response, the WHS students who were involved in the local performance last December loved the form, too.

"We're all pretty excited about this, because it was a lot of fun and a great experience last year," said sophomore Brittney Thiel. "This one should be a blast."

"There are lots of different styles and varieties of music in the show," shared senior Sameera Nalla. "Ms. Johnson has been great about keeping up traditions that were in place here, and we appreciate her efforts."

To prepare for the event, which benefits the WHS choral department, the 60 students who comprise the school's three select choral ensembles -- Bel Canto, Vox and Trojan Express -- put in a hefty measure of extra time and work.

"Since late September, these students have had at least one 7 a.m. rehearsal weekly -- for many of them, it's been two," Johnson said. "For the last two weeks before the show, they will all have three 7 a.m. rehearsals, so it's a tough commitment. (It) isn't a great time for high school kids at all, or for singing, so I'm really proud of the commitment and dedication they've shown toward making this happen."

Michael Benitez, a senior, stated, "The early practices work well, though, because nobody has a conflict at 7 a.m."

"Nobody talks too much, either, because we're all half dead," joked Thiel.

Come time for the madrigals, they'll all be livewires, serenading during mealtime, pouring special cider wassail toasts, serving catered turkey dinners to the guests, delivering scripted comedy, presenting the festive boar's head and generally entertaining to the hilt.


"We have a new boar's head -- it's mounted and stuffed, complete with tusks and fur, very authentic-looking," said Johnson. "Also, 12 brand-new costumes are being made for us, and all the students will be dressed in medieval, Elizabethan-type costumes."

Another change from last year -- besides the promise of speedier food service -- is that all the singing will be done a cappella.

"Traditional madrigal fashion is unaccompanied, because pianos didn't even exist when madrigals originated," Johnson explained. "Singing a cappella is an extra challenge, but the students are dedicated to giving this a more authentic feel."

The student ensembles will sing separately and together at different points in the show, with selections including "Masters in the Hall," "Riu, Riu, Chiu," "Please, Kind Sir," "Medieval Gloria," "In Silent Night," and, as a finale, "The Moon Shines Bright."

Plenty of humor is mixed in with the music.

"It's very funny, and actually quite interactive, with all different kinds of humor," stated Benitez.

Junior Brandon Berger will reprise his role as the court jester.

"His job is to entertain the audience in any way, shape or form he can," said Johnson. "Wesley Berger, a senior, is Sir Thomas Mucous, and he and Brandon do a great job of playing off each other."


There are also guardsmen and a town crier, portrayed by senior Ian Krekelberg.

Krekelberg, along with Benitez, urges people to attend one of the madrigal dinners.

"It definitely will get you jollier," Krekelberg said.

"You won't be disappointed," assured Benitez. "There's a lot of Christmas music in it, so it will help put you in the holiday spirit."

The WHS madrigal dinners are at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, at the WHS cafeteria. Tickets may be reserved through Dec. 9; to reserve tickets, call Worthington Area Music Boosters Association treasurer Dawn Shaffer at 507-360-7968.

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