Hear ye, hear ye: Nevada Union High School Choir presents their Madrigal Dinner this weekend
Special to Prospector
KNOW & GO
Who: Nevada Union Choir
What: Madrigal Dinner
Where: St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 401 S Church Street, Grass Valley
When: Friday Dec. 6, 7 p.m. (sold out) and Saturday Dec. 7, 5 p.m.
How: Tickets are $30 at www.nuchoir.org
As has become tradition, it is time once again to dine with “Royalty” at the Nevada Union High School Choir’s annual Madrigal Dinner, taking place this weekend at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley.
Parent volunteer with the Nevada Union Choir Boosters Valerie Costa, who is also the Special Sections Manager for The Union, said the evening is not like anything else the choir does. While other concerts the choir presents are wonderful, the Madrigal Dinner goes beyond just singing. Students and parents transform the hall into a beautiful venue, full of song and celebration.
Costa said the Madrigal event made an impact on her family that was life changing when she took her daughter to a previous dinner. “The reason my daughter, Sophie Cassidy, is in the choir now is because when she was in 8th grade I took her to the Madrigal Dinner to show her one of the many things the choir does.” Costa said, “She fell in love with that event and with the whole vibe of it. You could see the kids genuinely liked each other. It seemed like the perfect thing for her to do because she loves to sing.” As a sophomore at NU, Sophie is not only a member of the choir, but has found it to be “her place.”
The Madrigal Dinner fundraising event is more than a dinner and is better described as an experience. This year, set in the era of Henry VIII, the evening is part musical event, part multi-course dinner, part entertainment. “St. Joseph’s Cultural Center already has a historical feel to it, “Costa said. “You are seated at these long banquet tables and the hall is decorated.”
Organizers explain the evening begins with entertainment. Once everyone is seated, the Chamber Choir sings, jugglers juggle and the King and Queen arrive with their court to enjoy the entertainment. Dinner is delivered by other members of the choir who dress in serving attire. Merriment abounds.
Costa continued, “It is a whole show. They walk through the aisles and there is singing, there are jesters and jugglers and a King and a Queen and a court. They bring in the boar’s head and you get wassail, and they are singing and acting and it’s funny. And then the music is incredible.”
Choir Director Rod Baggett works with the entire choir each year to bring out the acting, singing, and performing strengths of the students who love being part of a tradition that Baggett has been leading for over twenty years.
“The talent of the kids and the songs that are chosen and the acoustics in the hall make for an experience unlike any other I have had in this area,” Costa said.
The all-volunteer event involves as many students as possible which helps them feel a part even if they are not singing or performing. Each year the students have a friendly competition to play the lead parts and many aspire to become members of the chamber choir.
Baggett rotates scripts from year to year to keep the event ever evolving. Many community members look forward to attending the Madrigal Dinner and have made it part of their own holiday tradition.
Costa said at the end of the evening all the students gather in a circle to sing old holiday songs. “It is beautiful and haunting and will give you chills,” she said. “It’s a really great event.”
Like any event this takes an incredible amount of parental and community support to make it happen. Alumni come back to help and many of the students have parents who remember their time as the cast of the Madrigal Dinner themselves.
Proceeds from the event go toward the cost of costumes and travel and other expenses incurred by the choir.
Costa added, “Having the arts in schools and particularly at Nevada Union is such an important part of the school experience and learning process and music, in particular, helps kids to be successful in math, English, and so many other things. Being involved in the performing arts gives kids more confidence because they have to get out and perform. They learn to overcome their fears and apprehension and put themselves out there, and there is something so special about that that carries with them for their entire life. We need to really support the arts in all of their forms in our schools because school would be a sad and lonely place without them.”
Attending the show
Dinner tickets for Saturday’s dinner have already sold out. Hurry to reserve your seat for Friday evening. Seating begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner and festivities set to begin at 7 p.m.
Should you miss the Madrigal dinner this year, you can still count on the Nevada Union choir to help get you in the holiday spirit at their winter concert next Thursday, Dec. 12. The evening consists of outstanding choral performances by the youth choral program. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and tickets for reserved seats are available online, with a limited number of tickets sold at the door for $12 general admission, $10 students, and seniors.
To buy tickets for either the Madrigal Dinner or the Winter Concert, and for information on how to support the Nevada Union High School Choir, go to http://www.NUChoir.org.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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