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Madrigal Feaste brings Christmas spirit to Jackson

The Bavarian Halle was transformed into a medieval Christmas celebration this weekend, during the Jackson High School Choir Department’s annual Ye Olde Madrigal Feaste.

Over 200 students participated in the event this year, the biggest group yet according to choir director Christy Shinn. The group consisted of members of the concert choir, the women’s choir and an after-school men’s choir.

“I tell the kids all the time that if they were to go to college and do a renaissance or madrigal feaste, mine is outside of the box because I try to include as many of the kids as possible as cast members,” Shinn said.

This year’s theme revolved around a medieval take on The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, played by Hailey Crass, falls asleep as her Auntie Em (played by Ashlynn Henry) tells her a story about a grumpy king (Caden Baird) and the queen (Madalyn Weber) who organizes a feaste to lighten his mood.

Dorothy is then transported into the castle, where she meets a wacky wench played by Elena Berjer, a knight in rusty armor played by Da’Zon Harris and a cowardly prince played by Hunter Gray.

While many tried to improve the king’s disposition through tales of dragons, group dances and jokes from court jesters, it was Dorothy’s gift that eventually lightened his mood.

Luke Collins, who played the Duke of Glouchester and has been involved with the event for the past five years, said the feaste is one of the best events the choir department does every year because of how much they get to interact with the audience and create an immersive theatrical experience.

“It’s a whole different experience because you’re not just standing on a riser and singing,” Collins said. “I love choir and I love concerts, but being able to come out here and act and get to make it your own is something that sets madrigal feastes apart.”

Both Collins and Shinn said that the Madrigal Feaste, which includes a dinner prepared by JHS staff and served by the students, is able to give families a great holiday message.

“I’ve had students in the past who say that this is their Christmas,” Shinn said. “For some of them who might not have their own family Christmas, they get a Christmas experience with this family.”

Madrigal singing, which dates back to 16th century England, has been a part of Jackson’s choir department since 1998. Shinn and Beth St. John, who was in Jackson’s first Madrigal Feaste, have continued the tradition started by Jean Schwein.

“This allows us the chance to get as many kids involved as possible,” Shinn said. “We don’t do musicals and everyone wonders why – it’s because I can instead take 200 kids and then have them all involved.”

The students started working on the event after their Veterans Day program, less than a month ago. Shinn said the ability of these choir members to prepare all the songs, dances and scenes during that short amount of time, and mostly during school hours, is a testament to their abilities.

“I have really great kids,” Shinn said. “I don’t think the kids realize the magnitude of what they accomplished.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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