MERCER – In addition to teaching students about medieval times, Michalee Christy gave them the experience of what it was like to live in that long-ago period.
That’s why the Mercer High School chamber choir director had her students host a Madrigal dinner at the school’s cafeteria on Friday and Saturday.
“I did it in college and found it inspirational,’’ Christy said. “It’s a wonderful way to teach them about a different time period.’’
Madrigal dinners, sometimes called Boar’s Head Madrigal dinners, were held near Christmas in the middle ages as a celebration with fine food, songs and dancing. A boar’s head is often carried into the dinner and isn’t meant to be eaten. Rather, it was a symbol of prosperity and peace.
For this Madrigal, the food was catered.
Students in the chamber choir were cast in roles from a royal court featuring a king, queen, lords, ladies and a jester. Senior Isaiah Phillips got to play the king. It isn’t an easy role, he said.
“You have a lot of lines and you have to improvise a lot,’’ he said.
The medieval costumes worn by students were crafted by a seamstress specializing in theatrical productions. The king and queen costumes were assigned, said senior Michaela Adams, who played the queen.
“For everybody else, it was whatever fit them the best,’’ Adams said.
Some of the girls found that dresses of that period weren’t designed with easy movement in mind.
“There are rings in the bottom of my dress that makes it very difficult when you sit down,’’ said senior Jenna Burkhardt.
For Brianna Oehlbeck, a lesson was how women in that period were often treated.
“They were controlled by their husbands to service their every need,’’ Oehlbeck said.
Songs sung by the choir dated from different periods such as the old song “Here We Come A-Wassailing’’ to the modern interpretation of “Carol of the Bells.’’
The latter, a very fast tempo song, was the most difficult to sing, said senior Carly Stabile.
“You have to be able to spit out all the words and then be able to breathe,’’ Stabile said.
Members of the audience were invited to join students in medieval dances with the Wench Toss – that’s the proper name – being the hit. The dance requires men to lift women up in the air a few feet and then, hopefully gently, back down.
“They were throwing us up and they didn’t even know who we are,’’ said senior Adrienne Schupp with a laugh.