All for one and one for all at Tonganoxie’s Madrigal Feaste
It’s early December, which means a growing Tonganoxie tradition once again transformed Tonganoxie Middle School into a Renaissance Era castle.
This past weekend was the 15th annual Madrigal Feaste, an event that continues to draw sellout performances for two nights only.
It also serves as a reunion.
The event, which the Tonganoxie High School vocal department puts on each year with the help of parents and many others, has become a family tradition. Older and younger siblings have performed, sat on the royal court, served food or all of the above.
At Saturday’s Madrigal Feaste, a few participants were able to recreate a scene from 2010.
That year, Emmy Derzinski, Allison Wllliams and Maria Bingham were fifth-graders dressed as princesses. They gathered for a photo with Ashley Stockman, who played the roll of queen that night.
A 2011 THS graduate, Stockman, who never has missed a Madrigal Feaste, gathered for a photo with the trio of girls, who now are juniors and had various roles in this year’s Feaste.
“It’s been a pretty big part of my life,” said Stockman, whose grandmother Carolyn Day is an integral organizer of the event alongside vocal instructor Tom Gifford.
For many years, Stockman helped with setup and participated in the event. After graduating high school, she now attends as part of family tradition, watching more and more generations of performers entertain.
Williams recalls the Madrigal Feaste in 2010. She and her classmates sold roses and lavender during the show.
Her freshman year, she served food and drinks, last year she had a toast as part of the Royal Court and this year she was in the play itself, which fellow student Ian Slater directed.
Williams said she likes the atmosphere of the Feaste and the nostalgia for a past time period. with the Renaissance Era and the 1920s being a couple of her favorites.
“It gives me an opportunity to see what it was like,” she said.
She also enjoyed being a part of the play, titled “Cinder Ella Phant.” She said it was exciting to have Slater direct the play. It also allowed Gifford to work more with choirs and not “babysit” the folks practicing the play.
Choir practice started about six weeks ago, with the play coming together the last two weeks, Williams said. That left this past week for nightly rehearsals or decorating before the big show.
As with most years, both nights were sold out this year.
Gifford said students served about 470 guests between the two nights.
“A lot of other organizations have a lot of fundraisers,” Williams said. “This is our only fundraiser. This is the only way we bring in money, and I think that’s kind of cool.”
Bingham has followed in the footsteps of cousins being involved in the Madrigal Feaste. And there’s another connection: her grandmother is great friends with Day.
“I just like how so many people can come together and we can put on a show and put on a community event,” she said. “And have so many people know about it.”
The show has gone on for 15 magical years, with a four-course meal served each time.
Gifford’s three choirs performed a concert at the end of the show.
A mix of familiar and classic songs, the choirs lead up to the finale, “Silent Night.” The somber song fills the commons area as the combined choir departs the castle, each note softer than the last with fewer vocalists.
It’s a special night for many.
“We just had a big choir hug with the seniors,” Williams said, referring to the scene in a classroom down the hall with the seniors. “It’s emotional that night. We’re just a huge family of 58 people. When 23 of us are leaving, we’re happy for them, but at the same time, we wish they could stay.”
Stockman spoke of her grandmother’s “infectious” enthusiasm and Gifford’s leadership as being paramount to the Madrigal Feaste’s continued success.
“It takes a really great teacher to put on an amazing show like that,” Stockman said. “He does an amazing job of it.”