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2004-12-06 - 2:33 p.m.

Bring us some Figgie Pudding

Last night we joined her High Ladyship Marieka Schrader & His High Lordship Ryan Antonelli in the 36th annual Sunday Madrigal Dinner. Invited to drink and eat heartily while enjoying an abundance of good cheer, we left our cares at the door and allowed ourselves to be whisked back to a celebration of olde.

Grandson Connor and granddaughter Chelsea (children of my daughters, Marci and Laurie) made us proud. Chelsea, dressed in an Elizabethan-style gown of cocoa brown velvet and white crepe, extravagantly beaded with seed pearls, a Juliet cap on her head, read the Proclamation after the processional of singers arranged themselves at tables on stage by houses that referred to composers of madrigals: House of Byrd, House of Morley, House of Gibbons, House of Dowland, House of Tallis, House of Wilbye, and House of Weelkes.

After many exclamations of God Save the Queen! and a Wassail Toast, followed, of course, by the Wassail Song, Chelsea sang the first solo of the evening, a lovely rendition of Intorn Al'Idol Mio by Marco Antonio Cesti. After the Boar’s Head Toast and dinner had been served, Connor sang flawlessly another Italian solo, but this time for bass...Non Posso Disperar by Giovanni Bononeini.

Entertainment took place while we feasted, some by the Madrigals, but young ladies from the House of Emerson (Emerson Junior High)in peasant gowns and bonnets wandered from table to table singing carols also. At one point during the evening, Madrigals from days gone by joined the ‘04-‘05 Madrigals on stage to sing one number; a few had even come in costume, but it looked as though some of the older singers might no longer have fit into theirs. We kept wishing that Mark had been there to witness his niece and nephew perform so nobly and courageously, carrying on his tradition of the mid-70’s. Each had several speaking parts. Chelsea has the English accent down pat; Connor doffed his hat with panache and flourish with each bow.

Chelsea’s father Peter, with the definite Irish name and countenance of a Reilly, wasn’t all that thrilled with all the “God Save the Queen’s!” Both mothers and grandmother had tears in their eyes – hard to discern whether from joy or relief that solos had each gone on without a hitch.

The Madrigal singers mingled with each other and the crowd, visiting and drinking wassail. A few more solos and then the Figgy Pudding Toast and another solo or two. Just as four servants had brought the Boar’s Head in on a plank earlier, a new group of four brought the Figgie Pudding in the same way, while the singers harmonized with “Bring us some Figgie pudding…” in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas, directed by one of the several student directors of the evening.

After the Figgie pudding and more Wassail and coffee, the singers, each carrying a candle, came down into the audience, inviting us to join them in singing a few traditional carols. Director Karen Gardias most generously suggested maybe some of us could audition for the next Madrigals.

Karen has done an amazing job with this group – twenty-one of the 32 are new this year, since she had to fill the positions vacated by graduating seniors with new voices. Chelsea had been in her junior high choir at Emerson last year. I’m sure Karen was delighted to hear what a great job the singers from House of Emerson did during intermission, strolling from table to table singing carols, as they’ll be the up-and-comers to replace the eleven seniors who will graduate this year.

After the sing-along, the Madrigals sang Silent Night during the candlelit recessional...and then ran back in and up onto the stage for one last bow...however, with prompting from the audience, they sang a couple of encores, then bid us a good night and safe journey home.

For the past 36 years this has been an award winning choir -- my son, also a bass, was the first of our family to participate -- back in the mid-70's in costumes the mothers pretty much threw together at home. I remember one year making a maroon velvet tunic that he wore with tights and a pink shirt on which I had done some crewel embroidery on the collar. (The kids at Davis High were accustomed to the tights, but they got razzed a good bit when they visited other schools!) Another year, I put a gold satin Griffin on the back of a turquoise velvet tunic. Mark's costumes were considered pretty spectacular in those days. Now, the costumes are much more authentic with the selection of colors chosen by a committee, who also must approve of the patterns and decor. Laurie made Connor's, mentored by the seamstress, who created Chelsea's gown and cape, except for the beading, which Marci and I did. (To give you some idea of how elaborate, there are petticoats, underpinnings, linings, and crinoline.). Laurie is still wondering if it might not have been a bargain to hire it made. Connor's tunic has detachable sleeves...and the pants, well you can see for yourself, they're a bit complicated, too. I've attached a picture of Connor...don't have one of Chelsea on -line yet.
Our friends, Mary and Joe McKenzie, from El Cerrito joined us for dinner, along with 23 others in our party, including friends of Marci and Peter's from Monterey and S.F., Connor's girlfriend and her family, and, of course, Chelsea's brother Max,age 12, who loves to sing and thinks the Madrigals are cool, but says, "I can't picture myself in tights!" Maybe by the time he gets to high school. We'll see.

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