A feast for the senses

Time travel back to the days of elaborate costumes and elegant multi-course banquets accompanied by jovial tunes, jugglers and jest at the 13th Christmas Madrigal Feast, hosted by Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church.

The two-hour dinner show isn't until Dec. 3 and 4, but there are limited seats available and tickets are on sale now. They can be ordered by calling 584-3720 ext. 17 or by e-mailing lmkellas@nycap.rr.com.

The guests always love it, they feel transported to a different time and are taken away from the present day for a moment. It's sort of like going to a good movie or opera. For about two hours, they don't have to think about anything and can get away from things, said Rand Reeves, musical director for the show.

The Christmas Madrigal, held about every other year since 1986, is reminiscent of medieval and Renaissance-era feasts that were often held more frequently than just at holiday time. More than 100 volunteers and members of the congregation spend a great deal of time preparing for the show, said Reeves, from practicing music to finalizing costumes, to cooking and making sure everything is in order.

"It's a huge effort; that's why we take a year-break in between," said Reeves. "It's not just the cast, but there are also people working in the kitchen, cleaning up and greeting at the door."

The two-hour evening follows many of the traditions that were commonly practiced in the 1650s. For one, the meal is structured to span about five courses, and begins with the parading around of a boar's head to the singing of the boar's-head carol.

"Hunters would go out and kill a boar and then parade the head around," said Reeves.

Church members also follow the tradition of the holly, candle lighting, cutting of the bread, passing of the salt and ending the meal with a Christmas pudding that comes into the room flaming.

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