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Get ready for magic of the Madrigals

The royal court is in residence at Deep Manor for the holidays, and the king and queen have invited their subjects to enjoy a five-course holiday dinner, complete with traditional Christmas music and lively entertainment. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham1 / 2
Raise a mug for the DLHS choir department's Madrigal Dinner, which has three performances Dec. 12, 16 and 19. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham2 / 2

The pigs are roasting, the wassail is heating, the royal court is rehearsing… yes, it’s time once again for that biennial Detroit Lakes High School tradition known as the Renaissance Madrigal Dinner.

Once every two years, the DLHS music and theater departments join forces to create a holiday extravaganza unlike any other to be found in the lakes area.

“It’s really an immersive experience,” says Mark Everson, the show’s co-director. “We want the audience to think they are in a medieval castle, listening to Renaissance music and eating Renaissance food… it’s Renaissance dinner theater.”

“The premise is, you eat, we entertain,” added Madrigal Dinner artistic director Kathryn Larson. “We take everyone back to merry old England, to the 1500s. The year is 1513, and we find ourselves in a castle, Deep Manor.”

Deep Manor — otherwise known as the Detroit Lakes High School Multi-Purpose Gymnasium.

“We transform the multi-purpose room into a castle, with medieval banners and even a castle turret,” Larson said.

The Royal Court is in residence at Deep Manor for the holidays, and the king and queen have invited their subjects to enjoy a five-course holiday dinner, complete with traditional Christmas music and lively entertainment.

Beggars and singers will mingle amongst guests, offering their yuletide greetings in word and song. Members of the Laker Singers will be featured as the Royal Court, while other choir members will serve as minstrels, waiters, beggars, dancers and other performers.

Music teachers of the district will perform in a recorder ensemble, and a wisecracking court jester will entertain the audience.

Announced by a brass fanfare, guests will be seated promptly at 6:15 p.m., with the Royal Processional starting at 7 p.m.

“The dinner is in three parts —  the meal, the skit and the concert,” Larson said.

The meal is a full five-course banquet featuring wild rice soup and Caesar salad, roast pork and potatoes, cheesecake and of course, plentiful cups of wassail.

After dinner, the court and their guests will assemble for the skit, which is the only part of the show that doesn’t strictly adhere to the evening’s Renaissance theme.

“Most of the evening is fairly cultured — very traditional and adhering to the rules of etiquette,” Larson said.

“And then we break things up with the beggars and jesters making jokes, jugglers, acrobats, minstrels and dancers,” Everson added. “And then we always do a really silly skit that contrasts with the sophisticated nature of the rest of the night.

“We put these traditional English characters into modern circumstances,” he continued.

“We incorporate very well-known figures from pop culture, music and movies,” Larson said.

“It’s about a half-hour skit, and it’s all student-created,” Everson said.

“The kids come in for auditions in the fall, and we ask them if they have a favorite (pop culture or movie) character that they can do,” Larson said. “Often times we end up building the skit around those characters. We cast kids that are really pretty good at being creative and spontaneous.”

After they have a cast, they sit down with them and “hammer out a script” for the skit, which although silly and somewhat spontaneous, does adhere loosely to a plot, Everson said — though the exact nature of that plot is kept hush-hush in order to surprise the audience at the first performance, he added.

After that comes the musical portion of the evening, with small and large group song selections, a Madrigal Brass performance and a mini-concert by a recorder ensemble that includes members of the Detroit Lakes School District music faculty.

“We hope to make you laugh, but also that you’re kind of moved by the end of the evening as well,” Everson said. “We end the show on a pretty reverent note.”

The overall intent, Larson added, is “to provide an environment for people to reflect on the spirit of the season — peace, good will, love, compassion and kindness.”

“It differs from other shows like this because it’s such an immersive experience — we want the audience to really become part of it. The action is all around you, and it’s always changing. You can smell it, taste it, hear it — we hope it touches every sense that you have, and that it touches your emotions as well.”

There are three performances scheduled for this year’s Renaissance Madrigal Dinner, with the first taking place this Thursday, Dec. 12, and the other two taking place on Monday, Dec. 16 and Thursday, Dec. 19. All three shows start with the seating at 6:15 p.m.

Tickets are $30 apiece, and are available for advance purchase at Central Market’s customer service counter.

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Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454