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Saint Mary’s community hosts Madrigal dinner

| Thursday, November 29, 2018

Every late November, the lobby of Regina North is transformed back in time. People from departments across campus including the costume shop, the dance department, dining services, the set shop, the music department and the Office of Campus and Community events join together to create a night of music, magic and storytelling through the Madrigal dinner.

Attendees are transported back in time to the Renaissance period for a night of dancing signing and holiday cheer.

“This office has always helped to do the logistics of the event in addition to selling the tickets and managing how the event operates,” Richard Baxter, the director of campus and community events, said.

Courtesy of Mary Firtl

Saint Mary’s students perform in the annual Madrigals production.

Though the event is entertaining, it also serves the higher purpose of fundraising.

“The proceeds from the events actually goes to the women’s choir to help fund their women’s choir tour that they do every other year,” Baxter said.

All of the departments’ work hard to benefit the women’s choir.

“The women’s choir starts working in September. They start rehearsing the pieces, and then we start working from October on,” Baxter said.

The Saint Mary’s event differs from other versions of Madrigal dinners.

“It’s a really unusual and unique kind of event,” Baxter said.

Baxter said that Saint Mary’s communications professor Susan Baxter has developed two scripts for the dinner after Nancy Menk said “that she wanted the performance to be a little more reverent.”

Before Susan Baxter’s scripts, the storytelling for the event was secondary, Richard Baxter said.

“Over the years [Madrigals] has involved into a presentation that is centered on a story and then it has songs that the choir signs and the choir kind of moves the action along,” he said.

The scripts follow one traditional family living in Renaissance England.

“Susan wrote the first script where the daughter falls in love with one of the kitchen people, and of course there is an issue with their social status, and the master of the house did not want them to be married, but eventually, they are married in secret. That’s part A,” Richard Baxter said. “Part B is what we are doing now, where the daughter and the husband have moved away and you see the master and the mistress and the jester coping with the master’s dip in faith.”

In the past, the love story was performed, but this year, the play being performed is the one after the daughter and husband move away.

Like all Christmas stories, Baxter said it has a happy ending.

“The story she has put in is really a story of faith, and how he recovers his faith and how the Christmas message is rediscovered and enjoyed,” he said.

Though the story has become an important part of the dinner, there are still many other features.

“The evening involves a lot of sacred music,” Baxter said. “They have a trumpet fanfare, and they have jugglers. That is all part of the festivity with the intent being that you are in a medieval hall prior to Christmas time. … The dance department puts on the dances, and the ancient music ensemble from Anderson University comes down and plays the music.”

All of the work that goes into the production pays off with the reaction and dedication of the audience.

“There is a family that has been coming every year for the last four years, and they bring their children,” Baxter said. “They pulled me aside two years ago, and they said, ‘As far as we are concerned, Christmas doesn’t begin until we come to this event.’”

Baxter said he enjoys watching people come to the event.

“Watching people come in out of the cold, hang their coats up, sit down and be transported back to the middle ages. That’s my favorite part,” he said.

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