By JOHN LYNCH
The annual Madrigal Feaste is almost here! The show celebrates its 43rd birthday this December, bringing with it the massive set in Tremper’s cafeteria and hundreds of performers for four nights. But beyond the visible aspects of the performance like the set, performers, and show, the audience is rarely given a look behind the scene’s of KUSD’s biggest show. Hundreds of hours of work go into the show, from rehearsals to set building to production, and no 36 hours are more integral to the show than the Feaste Retreat, a weekend of singing, improvisation, and shredded vocal cords. Based on my experience as a jester, here’s what you can expect from this year’s Feaste after a day and a half in a hotel with its most prominent performers.
The Madrigal Singers, under the direction of Polly Amborn and John Che, appear to be rounding into performance form quite nicely this year, just one year removed from losing many of their returning performers. The “Madrigal set” and “Christmas set”, which splits the show into two pseudo- acts, have all the feel of last year’s show while still refreshing the performance with new songs. A larger male body accompanies this year’s Madrigals, giving them some much-needed depth of tone to the new songs. That’s not to say the performance is perfect – some parts of the Feaste’s renowned Twelve Days of Christmas needs work, and occasionally the songs start out better than they end, but as the show is still a month away, some hiccups and miscues are bound to happen. Given time, however, the Madrigals should be every bit as good as last year’s excellent group.
As with the Madrigals, the jesters had a similarly excellent retreat. The physical nature of the mimed comedy was draining but rewarding, claimed one of this year’s eight jesters. The small and exclusive troupe features five returning jesters (myself included) and three new faces in the lineup, and the new ensemble appears to be gelling quite nicely as a group. At Retreat, the jesters practiced their new speeches that introduce songs in the Christmas and Madrigal sets, choreographed their famous Twelve Days of Christmas routine, and learned just how uncomfortable the heavy costumes and makeup is. The highlight of the week came during the last hour of the Retreat, where the jesters and singers finally worked in unison on song introductions, and, of course, the Twelve Days of Christmas. Jesters and singers alike also had the chance to mingle at the waterpark at Timber Ridge Lodge, much to the relief of all performers’ aching voices and bodies.
Despite a mostly different cast, this year’s Feaste performers are largely optimistic about this year’s show, which starts its four-night run December 7-11. The cast and directors encourage you, the reader, to come see the show and be a part of KUSD’s greatest tradition this Christmas time. As the opening monologue puts best: “Trumpets, sound your clarion call! And Singers, HIE THEE TO THE HALL!”