Southside High event a feast of music, food

JULIE FIDLER Originally Published November 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 9, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
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Magician Dan Hecke, center, entertains at a table during last year’s Ye Olde Christmasse Madrigal Feaste. Southside Batesville High School is getting ready for the 18th annual event, to be held Dec. 14 and 15.

— Southside High School choir members, teachers and parents are working hard on the choir’s 18th annual Ye Olde Christmasse Madrigal Feaste.

David Norris, a junior at the school, said it’s just like a time machine for him. When asked what he enjoys about being a part of the event, he said, “Just the entire experience. It energizes you.”

Norris started out as a server and a singer for two years before he graduated to a “Lorde.”

“I had to audition by singing a song I was required to learn shortly before,” he said. “And, they had me do some scales.”

The event will be held Dec. 14 and 15 at the Southside Middle School Cafetorium on Quail Lane, south of Batesville. The event includes entertainment and a “fine” dinner, according to a promotional flyer for the upcoming event. The feast is “in the style of Merrie Olde England, with Renaissance costumes, decorations, drama and fanfares,” the flyer states.

The Southside High School Choir will present the annual Madrigal Feaste, and the Chamber

Singers will “host an elegant evening of songs and a marvelous feaste reminiscent of banquets in the time of Queen Elizabeth I,” the flyer said.

Alicia Weaver, 17, the daughter of choir director Angela Weaver, has been a part of the feast almost her entire life and can’t remember a time when she did not participate.

“I’ve pretty much been involved since I was born,” she said. Alicia is a “Ladye” and sings soprano in the choir.

Angela Weaver said this year is special because Jeremy Hall of Paragould, choir director for the Greene County schools, is returning as the court jester. Hall is an alum of Southside.

“Southside is my alma mater,” Hall said. “While attending school at SHS, I was a part of the royal court, or the madrigal singers. This ensemble and Mrs. Weaver had a huge influence on my decision to pursue a teaching career in music.”

After obtaining his degree, Hall said he was “very appreciative to return to Southside.”

After spending three years as a part of the event, he said, “the opportunity arrived for me to continue the tradition of excellence at a different school district. I am very grateful for the experience and knowledge learned while at Southside. I actually volunteered to return as the jester. I can’t imagine not being a part of the Madrigal Feaste, and I am so happy to take on the role of court jester.”

This won’t be Hall’s first time to be the jester.

“I have played the role a couple of times prior for other school and community events,” he said. “But this is my first time being the jester for the dinner itself.”

Hall said the jester has many tasks, including setting up the atmosphere of a medieval castle and being the narrator for the events of the dinner. That includes announcing the royal court, the lighting of the Christmas candle, and the procession of the wassail bowl and boar’s head.

“Another job of the jester is, of course, to entertain,” he said. “This is my way of giving back to the program that has made me the person I am today. I owe a lot to Mrs. Weaver and the dinner itself. The dinner is not about me. It’s about the music and the students. I am just a secondary role that helps the audience understand what is going on.

“It’s a magical experience, which will transform you from the stresses of everyday life into another time and place. The meal is fantastic, and the cafeteria staff does a wonderful job preparing it. The music is always impressive and will get you into the holiday spirit. I would urge anyone that has not attended the dinner to give it a go. It will start your holiday season with a bang!”

Rita Philips is one of a number of parents involved in the event.

“I’ve been involved with the Madrigal Feaste for six years,” she said. Phillips daughter is a senior member of the madrigal group. She began volunteering when her daughter was in the seventh grade.

“The singers are selected through an audition process with very high expectations from the choir director,” Phillips said. “This year’s group is the largest number of singers in the feast’s 18-year history.”

The event is a “tremendous” amount of work, Philips said.

“But I enjoy helping because of the students. They are an amazing and talented group who have dedicated many hours to rehearsal. Mrs. Weaver and the students put in so much time and effort that the least I can do is mend costumes, help decorate the ‘hall’ and help in the kitchen on the night I’m not enjoying the feast,” she said.

As for what she gets out of the whole experience, Philips said, “My reward is watching students who begin their growth from a singer to a confident Lorde or Ladye, performing during the feast. The transformation of the middle school cafeteria from a utilitarian room to a spectacular medieval hall is almost unbelievable. The meal that is served is truly delicious and plentiful, but it is not the highlight of the evening. The splendor of the madrigal singers as their voices fill the room is absolutely one of my favorite holiday experiences.”

Reservation forms for the event are available at the school. Reservations paid by Nov. 30 will cost $20 per ticket. The seating of guests begins at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is at 7. Early reservations are encouraged as seating is limited each evening.

Guests will be served wassail, “boar’s head,” and fresh fruit, along with cheese, French onion pottage, beef tenderloin au jus, twice-baked potatoes, green bean bundles, whole loaves of wheat bread and a flaming dessert. For more information, contact Weaver at (870) 612-2846 or angela.weaver@southside.k12.ar.us.

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