Archive for Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Once a year, but worth the wait

December 21, 2005

It always amazes me how talented our local youths are.

Last week, the Tonganoxie High School vocal music department sponsored its fourth annual Madrigal Feaste.

Photos from the Madrigal Feaste are available in the print edition of The Mirror, as well as in the "photo galleries" link on The Mirror's Web site.

Each year, the medieval-style dinner and musical entertainment is an extraordinary event, especially when considering it's put on by a small-town high school music department.

But the caliber of the talent is by no means small-town. It's a magnificent performance that most likely would gather an appreciative audience in any city in this nation.

THS vocal music teacher Joyce Steeby directs the dinner theater.

From the beginning, which included a performance by the bell choir of the Tonganoxie Methodist Church and songs by a grade school choir, to the end, where high school students sang "Ave Maria" -- the program was inspirational.

Included in the entertainment were a court jester, traveling singers, flute trios, trumpeters and audience participation. "Twelve Days of Christmas" was sung by selected members of the audience, with the participants ranging in age from adults to children as young as 11-year-old Evan Greenwell and his 5-year-old cousin, Cassie Martin.

For seven years now, Carolyn Day has been the piano accompanist for the high school's vocal music department. But because, as Day said, the word "madrigal" describes an unaccompanied piece of vocal music, during this event, she wears a different hat.

Working with dozens of parent and community volunteers, Day helps with costumes, food ordering and preparation, decorations, the musical program, serving and cleaning up.

Day said that though the event is sponsored by the music department, each year it becomes more of a community affair. For instance, she said, Shirley Tice, whose children have long been out of high school, decorates the tables. And this year, Connie Torneden and her son, James, who graduated from high school in May, returned to help prepare the dinner.

For the past three years the Madrigal Feaste has been held at the Tonganoxie Christian Church, with no fee charged for use of the building.

The Renaissance Festival, in Kansas City, Kan., helps with the project as well, by loaning thrones, banners and assisting with the ordering of the food. While some of the costumes worn by the royal court are loaned from Kansas City Kansas Community College, the high school also is building its own collection, from costumes made by parents. And Day said, the high school's music department owns all of the peasant costumes, as well as the dozens of tablecloths.

Overall, the project is a valuable experience for the students, Day said.

"The kids learn so many things, to interact with people, to serve the dinner," Day said. "They learn so many things besides just learning how to sing."

Wrapping up the Madrigal Feaste, each year, is bittersweet, Day said.

After the last evening's performance, after the applause, after the final snapshots of the musicians in royal dress, the set comes down.

And by morning, the meeting room of the church is back to normal.

Day said this year, everything was taken down, put away and cleaned up by 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

But, as it will be a year before the event repeats itself, it's not without some small bit of regret, Day said.

She smiled, and added, her eyes glistening, "It's magic and I always hate to see them tear up the kingdom."

Mirror readers would do well to watch for the 2006-2007 school calendar and plan to attend next year's Madrigal Feaste. It's an event worth waiting for.

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