A Royal Meal in Merry Olde England

Posted 1/20/00

Let it come with us, let it fly away

On wings of laughter, wings of song,

Wings that carry each along

To a special time, a special place

That magically, mystically care erase…

By …

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A Royal Meal in Merry Olde England


Let it come with us, let it fly away

On wings of laughter, wings of song,

Wings that carry each along

To a special time, a special place

That magically, mystically care erase…

By Mary Marek

Unstick thy mind from the present day,

Let it come with us, let it fly away

On wings of laughter, wings of song,

Wings that carry each along

To a special time, a special place

That magically, mystically care erase.

Thus began the program for last week’s Madrigal Dinner in Mid-Prairie High School. (Cole Porter [or somebody of his generation] said it better – “Forget your troubles, come on, get happy; shake all your cares away. Sing Hallelujah, come on, get happy. Get ready for the Judgement Day.” Oh, well, that last part doesn’t apply, but you get my meaning. Unfortunately, Mr. Porter [or whoever] wasn’t around in Medieval England.)

I’ve been going to Cody’s concerts ever since he started kindergarten, but the Madrigal Dinner was the most energetic and professional performance I’ve seen yet. Of course, this is Cody’s first year at the High School and one would expect a little more from a high school choir than an elementary or middle school group.

For those of you who don’t know what a Madrigal Dinner is, let me try to explain.

(Pause while I look up the word “Madrigal” in the encyclopedia on my computer.) And it says:

“Madrigal, in music, secular composition for two or more voices, introduced in Italy in the 14th century and revived in a different form during the 16th century, at which time it also became popular with English, French, German, and Spanish composers. The word madrigal is thought to have been derived from mandriali (a short pastoral poem) or from matricale (a rustic song or poem in the mother tongue), or perhaps madriale (a hymn to the Virgin Mary).”

Well, I know that clears it up for me, but for those of you who are still a little fuzzy, I’ll try to describe the event. Basically, we spent the evening in medieval England (which seemed to be located on the east edge of Wellman).

Cody and the rest of the choir had to be at the high school by 5 p.m. so they could get into their costumes. The general audience, of which Jim, I, my sister Pat and Jim’s mom were a part, weren’t allowed into the building until 6 p.m. That meant we got to sit in our car for about an hour watching kids run back and forth inside the nice warm building.

Once we were allowed inside, King Arthur and Queen Guenivere (Troy Ruffin and Dawn Swartzendruber), who were sitting on their royal thrones right inside the door, met us.

We signed the royal guest book, which was attended by royal guest book attendants Nicole Immerman and Vicki Jepson, and wandered around in the royal hallway, being entertained by the royal Castle Recorders (Steph Beeler, Abby Gent, Mindi Jorgensen, Jill Riggan and Jessica Hora), who weren’t recording anything but were playing flute-like instruments which were probably called “recorders”, and the royal Castle Singers (Emily Johnson, Kim McCoy, Kendra Johnson, Becca Roush, Katie Kemp and Nicole Immerman).

Flitting around and through the crowd were the royal Beggars (Jessica Jones, Laurie Arieux, Jill Kelley, Jenna Adam, Chrystal Hammel and Laura Houseal). They were dressed in rags and carried tin cups and other assorted metalware (I didn’t know they had aluminum pie pans in King Arthur’s time), the better to rattle the royal coins they were begging from the crowd (I assume the money they collected will go to the Music Boosters.).

The doors into the cafetorium (or “Auditorium Center” as it was called on our tickets) and into other areas of the school were guarded by royal Knights of the Castle (Adam Casper, Cory Baxter, Anthony Jones, Sean McCoy, Scott Reschly, Jason Hardy, Stephen Bird, Aaron TeBockhorst, Cody Marek, Billy Knebel, Milo Young and Ian McClintock). They were armed with swords that looked suspiciously like 3/4” wooden dowels painted silver.

The royal Knights took their royal guard duty seriously. At one point I attempted to exit through one door simply so I could re-enter through another and bypass the jam of royal subjects who were greeting the King and Queen, when I was halted by a pair of Knights who would not let me through. Threats to tell their mothers or put their pictures on the front page of the paper did me no good. I was forced to fight my way back through the throng of royal-watchers to regain my place at Lord Jim’s side (Who, you ask, is Lord Jim? Keep reading).

Finally, on the dot of 6:30, the Court Jester, Colin Houseal (who looked pretty good in red tights and white face makeup), welcomed us to the royal court, and the Town Crier, Nicole Schlabach, (who really did look lovely in her finery) called us, one by one (or two by two or whatever), to be seated at our tables. It was the first time Jim and I had been referred to as “Lord Jim” and “Lady Mary”. I have to admit I kind of liked it. (Maybe I’ll change the name of my column to “Cooking with Lady Mary” or “In Lady Mary’s Court” or something.)

As we walked through the door into the cafetorium, I mean the royal dining room, we were met by royal Servants who escorted us to our royal assigned seats.

I have never seen the cafetorium look so good. Each table was beautifully set with china and crystal goblets and more silverware at each place than we usually use at home. White mini-lights were strung everywhere and each table had a lovely centerpiece of greenery and a candle. The mini-lights and candles provided most of the light in the room, which made the atmosphere seem magical, but made reading our programs tricky.

Once we were all in our places, the Royal Brass (Scott Steckly, Lauren Thomann, Andrea Thrapp and Mr. Kunz) blew a royal fanfare and the King and Queen (Troy and Dawn) and their royal court (Allison Kempf, Jared Adam, Trina Juilfs, Brian Hervey, Jeannette Manley, Neal Campbell, Lacey Curtis, Rick Beckley, Luke Johnson, Heidi Miksch, Danelle Bontrager, Seth Brenneman, Carissa Stout and Chris Welch) paraded in and took their royal seats at the royal table on the royal stage, which was decorated to resemble a royal castle.

Before we could begin the royal meal, the King proclaimed that the royal Beggars should be allowed to dine with us. Before we knew it, we had three Beggars (Jenna, Chrystal and Laurie) sitting at our table, oohing and aahing over the fine, “clean” dishes and picking imaginary (I hope) lice out of each other’s hair.

In good time, the royal Servants (Chrissy Casella, Renee Hochstedler, Katrina Surly, Amber Ford, Rachel Patterson, Katie Peck, Audrey Berg, Marriah Bontrager, Candace Richardson, Leanne Rushing, Regina Escher, Ashley Reubin, Bobbie Kasper, Amber Blakley, Hanna Schneider, Dyannah Wendt, Jesse Emmert, Randi Fisher, Linda Garrett, Robin Milford, Rachel Lovetinsky, Kristen Coker, Shanda Bergren, Kelly King, Miranda Scheffer, Carla Pfeiffer and Marina Yabuitl), began serving the royal meal.

Each course of the meal, of which there were many, was preceded by a fanfare and the parading of the course past the royals for their approval. What did we eat? Here’s the menu direct from the program (with my explanation in parenthesis):

Wasseyle Coppes (wassail – a sort of warm fruit punch); Fresh Fruyt (strawberries, grapes and cheese); Vegetable Potage (vegetable soup); Lettuse Sallade (lettuce salad); Glazed Chycken (glazed chicken); Botata (baked potato); Myxed Vegetables (broccoli, carrots and cauliflower in cheese sauce); Rounde Brede With Swete Butyr (bread and butter); and Desserte (carrot cake). To drink we had a choice of Wasseyle Coppes, coffee (coffee) or water (water).

Between and during each royal course, we were entertained by the royal Court Jester who, during the course of the evening gave a royal juggling demonstration and fell in love with Robin de Cradle (Amanda Rodgers), a young lady who also looked nice in her red tights and white face makeup. To win her love, the Jester had to find a live unicorn, which, considering unicorns are mythical creatures, wasn’t easy to do. He did it though. Right before our very eyes (whatever that means), a real, live unicorn (Miranda Schaeffer and Regina Escher) came prancing down the aisle.

Other entertainment included the royal Castle Dancers (Vicki Jepson, Andi Klostermann, Jodie Neuzil, Nicole Bontrager, Phil Haworth, Aaron Swartzendruber, Ryan Miller and Abe Endecott) and the royal Troubadours (Brad Kinsinger, Katie Humston and Elliot Stapleton), all of whom were royally entertaining.

And, in case we had trouble understanding what was being said or going on, the royal Interpreter (Sara Knecht) explained things as we went along.

The kids did a great job and, of course, Louise Frakes must be recognized for all the work that went into the production.

Also on the list of people to thank are the royal Music Boosters, parents and students for doing the decorations; the royal seamstresses, Jean Ellinger, Cathy Conway, Tina Swartzendruber, Deb Ruffin, Cathy Schlabach, Lind Kemp, Fern Bontrager, Jean Gustafson, Mazine Houseal, Maureen Knowling and Shirley Kuhns for making sure everyone had an appropriate costume; and the royal assistants, Wendy Klostermann, JoAnn Orthel, Collette Conway and Tammy Miller, who helped make sure everything ran smoothly.

I’m sure there were a bunch of people in the kitchen whose names I don’t know who also contributed a lot of work and they should be thanked, too.

And thus, about 9:15, the royal evening came to an end. I have to admit, it was more fun than I’d expected and I look forward to next year’s Madrigal Dinner. Even if I don’t know what a “Madrigal” is.


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