When you enter Bear River High School on Friday, Saturday or Dec. 5, you'll notice something has changed. The commons area, normally filled with texting teenagers and studying kids, will be transformed into a medieval hall complete with tapestries, garlands and all the bells and whistles you'd expect at a royal gathering.
The teenagers themselves will have changed too. They've abandoned their T-shirts and blue jeans for tunics and dresses. A meal is served that seems fitting of King Arthur and his knights. Jesters and courtiers joke and play along with the crowd.
This isn't Bear River High School but 16th century England, and you are a guest at a royal feast to commemorate the season -- The Madrigals' Feaste.
To say that the Madrigals' Feaste is true to the time period would be stating the obvious. Over the past nearly 30 years of the event, the food, fun and general controlled-chaos are its hallmark. Jesters, as directed by the king, queen, and lords and ladies of the court, find many ways to entertain the audience. Audience members who violate any of the court rules and procedures find themselves hanging in the stocks or perhaps singing or dancing in front of the assembly, as directed by the jesters.
Dancers, gymnasts and other local artists are called in to perform as well. Beggars, just as in the 16th century, roam between the tables and can sometimes be found in possession of missing items. Much to the beggars' chagrin, the jesters and court require the return of these items to the audience. To be sure, there is never a dull moment during the Madrigals' Feaste!
The court itself, made up of the school's Madrigal Choir, provides a calm tone, a different but complimentary feel to accompany the jesters' antics. The Madrigals learn songs from the late medieval to early Renaissance period to perform during the feast. Songs such as "Gaudete" and "Personent Hodie" punctuate the feast with fun and merriment. Traditional carols like "Coventry Carol," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Oh, Holy Night" tell the story of Christmas in an eloquent fashion and add to the Christmas spirit.
Along with authentic entertainment, the Madrigals pride themselves in providing a hearty supper. Foods like roast beef, hot potatoes and homemade bread are provided by the parents of the choir members. And it's only fitting that songs are sung about the food. "Wassail" ushers in a drink of the season and begins the parade of dishes as the supper starts to get underway. More songs about the food and the period are heard in "The Boar's Head Carol."
Although there is no planned entertainment during the dinner itself, the jesters and the courtiers make sure that there is never any down time. At the beginning of the production, salt is presented to the guests as a "gift from far across the Mediterranean sea which must be used sparingly." To control the use of salt, anyone found not paying the toll for the salt shaker -- a kiss to the keeper of the salt -- must perform a nursery rhyme or some other entertainment. Needless to say, it doesn't take too many salt violations before the audience begins to pay attention when they need to salt their meal!
The Madrigals' Feaste has been a time-honored tradition for decades in the Bear River Valley. Complete with jesters, courtiers and a king and queen, nothing is lacking in this 16th-century-style celebration of the season.
If you go: The feast begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 5 at Bear River High School, 1450 S. Main St., Garland. A matinee is presented at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 435-257-3366.
Abby Payne is a senior at Bear River High School. When she's not singing, writing or talking a million miles an hour, you can always find her reading. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.