Colorfully clothed choir students gather onstage, donning 16th century gowns and caps. As the lights dim, the students – now transformed into English peasants and princesses – begin to sing. Although the song’s words are in Spanish, the rhythm transcends the language barrier and transports the audience to the year 1536.
The annual Madrigals Feaste brought medieval life to the stage at Jordan Middle School last weekend. A staple in the Palo Alto High School choirs’ annual concerts, the feast featured creative songs and a comedic plot, highlighting the choirs’ talent and creativity.
The performance’s plotline revolved around a royal family in medieval England. King Henry VIII (senior Ryan Jamison) has gathered the audience in celebration of his marriage to Queen Jane (senior Lana Graves) after his previous wife was decapitated for bearing him a daughter instead of a son. Unfortunately for the family (and England’s neighbors), Princess Elizabeth is kidnapped on the day of Henry VIII and Jane’s marriage celebration. Fearing the King’s wrath, Princess Mary (senior Luma Hamade), and Queen Jane search for the princess with the help of two comedic detectives, Lady Olivia (senior Jenny Xin) and Lord Elliot (sophomore Sam Kim) as well as a crier (junior Edward Park). The search includes a series of songs by the servants and royal family.
The Madrigals’ plot was amusing and included hilarious allusions to celebrities ranging from Taylor Swift to Donald Trump. (King Henry VIII at one point threatens to “build a wall” around England.) The play was properly spaced so that neither commentary nor songs dominated the Madrigals’ entirety. In addition, a happy (yet unanticipated) ending properly concluded the play.
The singing was exceptional and featured every member of Paly choir. Songs varied greatly, from the cheerful Christmas songs by Paly’s acapella groups, to soulful tunes (some in a different language). Some songs that stood out included “In My Little Picture Frame,” which featured a shaker and melancholy tunes, “Esta Noche Nace el Niño,” led by soloist Graves, and “Procession.” In addition, many songs included soloists who guided the choir. The music made up a majority of the Feaste.
The concert’s food was both plentiful and elegant. A three course meal began with sugary scones, ripe strawberries and water and tea. The main course, cucumber sandwiches, was an appetizing meal with fresh cucumbers and delectable bread. For dessert, various chocolate and candy pieces left me feeling like royalty.
Other aspects of the event were also a success. The set, which included a castle’s background and Christmas wreaths, was minimalistic yet appropriate for a song-based play. The characters’ costumes were elaborate and elegant, featuring 1500s trends and stylish caps and gowns. Each costume was unique and colorful, and a large effort appeared to have been put into their design. Tables in the seating area were lavishly decorated, transporting the audience to the 16th century. A jester (Student Activities Director Matthew Hall) also performed entertaining juggling tricks with balls and blocks of wood that left the crowd laughing at his antics.
While the singing was superb and the plot entertaining, Madrigals was longer than necessary (about 2 and a half hours) and it was difficult to concentrate for the duration of the performance. However, the characters consistently mentioned audience members and an auction mid-way through kept everyone engaged.
The Madrigals Feaste combined stellar tunes and costumes with a hilarious script to create an outstanding production. An elegant three-course meal and 16th century attire transported the audience to the year 1536, and despite some dull moments, the Feaste stood out as a shining choir performance.