Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Looking forward to medieval night

October 15, 2003

The Renaissance Festival may have wrapped up this past weekend in Kansas City, Kan.

But in Tonganoxie, another sort of medieval celebration -- the Madrigal Feast, which includes a Renaissance-style dinner complete with musical fanfares -- is just beginning.

The event, sponsored by the Tonganoxie High School vocal music department, is set for Dec. 12 and 13. If there's a sellout crowd and more people want to attend, the performers may also hold court on Dec. 11. Tickets, which will go on sale toward the end of October, may be purchased from the performers or at the high school.

For the second year, the vocal music program will treat the community to fine dining, albeit with a menu that may sound a little more rustic than normal. But rest assured, the roasted boar likely will be as good as it was last year. And of course, the music is sure to top the charts again.

Joyce Steeby, vocal music instructor for junior high and high school, attributed the success of last year's two-night dinner performances to one thing -- enthusiasm.

It was the enthusiasm of students, parents and, yes, even grandparents, other staff members and the community that made it work, she said.

Last year's event started with wandering minstrels in the foyer of the Methodist Church. Students dressed as peasants sold long-stemmed roses to guests who waited for the arrival of the town crier who would lead them to the banquet hall.

Last year's performance seated 88 each evening. This year, to accommodate more guests, the event will be held at Tonganoxie Christian Church, which Steeby said will likely seat 200 diners.

Obviously, it takes more than one person to orchestrate the planning necessary for two or three nights of entertainment that includes stage sets, costumes, dinner, table decorations and entertainment.

"There's no way I could do this myself," Steeby said.

She rattled off a list of those who are integral to the event, including Carolyn Day and Mona Hamby, who head up the food committee. This means planning for the food, as well as working out a schedule of when parents work shifts in the kitchen.

Then there were the set designers, who last year focused part of their efforts in turning down the lighting to provide a dark-castle atmosphere.

"They spent hours trying to figure out how to adjust the lighting," said Steeby.

And, they added a stained glass layer to the windows and shone lights from outside the building to diffuse glowing colors on the Renaissance-decked crowd.

This includes, of course, royal court costumes, loaned by Kansas City Kansas Community College, which used to perform madrigal feasts.

"And they're allowing us to borrow them again," Steeby said.

Parents joined in on sewing costumes for concert choir members. Denise Bixby headed up this committee.

"She spent countless hours, along with the other parents in constructing those," Steeby said.

Obviously, the list of those instrumental in ensuring the success of the madrigal feast is too long to detail in this column. But rest assured, the helpers are jumping to get started.

And they have been ready for quite some time.

"The parents were asking last spring when are we starting planning for the madrigal feast," Steeby said. "They were just rearing to go."

Steeby, who taught at other schools before coming to Tonganoxie two years ago, said her music program has found a solid backing in Tonganoxie. This of course, is a credit to the Tonganoxie school system, students, parents and the community at large.

"This is something I've wanted to do for a long time," Steeby said. "I just never had been in the location where that was supported as well as it is here."

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