The Madrigal Experience


Photo submitted by Ryan Casey

The Head Table performs a song they’ve been practicing since September at the Madrigal Dinner.

The Madrigal Dinner has been going on at SHS since 1976, and this year marks its 46th annual dinner. The performance fundraises for future choir activities. The dinner took place this year on December 10 and 11, and included a seven-course meal, decorations covering the whole cafeteria, music, theatrical entertainment, and medieval storytelling.
SHS choir teacher Ryan Casey, is the organizer of the Madrigal Dinner. He also teaches vocal music and writes skits for all the choirs. He works with students, parents, and community members to plan and make sure the show goes smoothly.
“The [Head Table] Madrigal Singers meet on Monday nights beginning in September and [they] finish in December. They practice for an hour and a half on Monday nights,” Casey says. “I start working with parents to plan the menu in late October.”
With preparation for the dinner starting in September, the choir had months of practice and planning ahead of them.
“The choir boosters help secure the parent volunteers [during the month of] November. Inventory is taken, and the food is ordered a few weeks out. The week before the dinner, we begin setting up the ceiling, platforms, head table, and all the other decorations,” Casey says.
Casey believes the most stressful part of preparations for the Madrigal Dinner is that students don’t get to rehearse in the actual space before the dinner. This causes the singers to have no way of knowing how the dinner is going to go or what the dinner will look like until they’re there in front of the whole audience.
Junior Brandon Vaage is part of the Head Table for the first time this year.
“I learned a bunch of more difficult music than the rest of the choir, and I also have to say some lines like an oath,” Vaage says.
The Head Table is a little different than the rest of the choir and has a few more responsibilities, such as more practice time and special recognition from the audience.
“We have Monday practices and recently went caroling to memorize it more, but then some of the stuff is on your own,” Vaage says. “I had to paint a shield for myself and make and memorize my oath outside of practices.”
With all the time and effort the choir contributes to putting on this dinner, certain parts make the whole event worth it for the cast members.
“[My favorite part is] probably the people I do it with because it wouldn’t be very fun without everybody else on the table, making it an enjoyable experience,” Vaage says.
Vaage says that both dinners went well, and reflects on the events that stuck out to him the most.
“[My favorite moments were] the ‘Men in Tights’ skit and [the] two people [who brought in] whole watermelons [for us] to eat,” Vaage says.
Another student, junior Molly Gracyalny, has been part of Madrigals for a while now. She did it with the Valhalla singers in middle school, and this is now her second year performing as a high schooler.
“I’m a majordomo, so I look over one of the sections for serving and report to the head majordomo if anything goes wrong,” Gracyalny says.
Most rehearsals are in class for those not part of the head table, but that doesn’t mean there are no difficult responsibilities for them, as well.
“We have a song in German […] and I don’t speak German, so memorizing and learning how to sing and speak German […] is very stressful,” Gracyalny says.
Although there are many challenges, like learning to sing in a foreign language, Gracyalny enjoys getting to dress up in fancy costumes.
Another Head Table member, Senior Belinda Akale, wrote to the Norse Star that both shows went very well, and the contrast between this year’s full dinner and last year’s smaller dinner really set them up for success.
“I’m really grateful that concert choir showed out and committed, given that most of us haven’t had a true dinner experience. It went really smoothly, and we sold out both shows,” Akale wrote. “Head table was very solid and filled with committed members who I’m [thankful] I had the chance to create music with. I’m overall very proud of the music program, and I wouldn’t change a thing. ”
Casey thinks back on what brings the whole show together and what makes sure a good performance is put on for the audience, with little to no complications while students are performing.
Casey says, “People giving up their time, adults working side by side with students, and everyone’s willingness to share their labors make the Madrigal Dinner a success. This sharing and generosity is a positive model for the students to emulate.”