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Madrigal dinner to be held at College

Mandi Stirone | Friday, December 5, 2008

This weekend, the Saint Mary’s Madrigal choir, along with students, staff, faculty and community volunteers, will host the 36th annual Madrigal Christmas Dinner.

The three-night event features four separate renaissance-themed performances and meal productions, said the Leighton Chair of Music and director of the Madrigal choir Dr. Nancy Menk.

While the event originally showcased a co-ed choir for two matinee and two evening shows, the program switched over to an all-women choir about four years ago due to trouble finding male volunteers, Menk said.

The 24-member Madrigal choir is composed by Saint Mary’s students at all levels and in various fields of study, she said.

There are also student and faculty servers, actors, trumpet players and crew, she said.

Other participants, like the Andrews University Early Music Ensemble, who are playing the part of The Royal Consort, come from outside of Saint Mary’s, Menk said.

The menu for the dinner, provided by Saint Mary’s/Sodexho Dining Services, consists of roast beef au jus at the evening showings, and stuffed Cornish game hen at the matinees.

There are also roasted potatoes, glazed carrots, a winter salad and bread.

In addition to the adult courses, last year, a children’s menu and children’s ticket price of $15 was introduced.

“Now they have chicken fingers,” Menk said.

The new menu and ticket option were implemented to try and draw more children to the event, Menk said.

“Kids love it,” she said.

Though this is the 36th appearance of the dinner at Saint Mary’s, it is Menk’s 25th performance.

Menk said she enjoys performing, but her favorite part of the dinner is when the boar’s head is brought out.

The traditional song that is sung during this, The Boar’s Head Carol, had to be arranged differently after the choir became all-women, she said, so she asked a composer from Alaska, Grant Cochran, to modify a four-part male arrangement to a four-part female arrangement for the choir.

“It’s always fun to watch the people’s faces as we pass the boar’s head around on a platter,” Menk said, “It’s a really traditional part of any Madrigal dinner.”

The Madrigal Christmas Dinner has become an important part of the Christmas celebration for many South Bend residents, Menk added. Some people bring office groups to the dinner, while others make it a family tradition, she said.

“There are people who make it a part of their annual holiday traditions,” she said.