Mid-Prairie preps for annual madrigal dinner

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It’s been 27 years in the making and this year, pandemic or not, will not break that streak. Mid-Prairie has presented a madrigal dinner every year since 1993—vocal music teacher Collette McClellen was actually in the first one.

The event features music from the Renaissance period, as well as costumes for the king, queen, their courts and other roles. Mid-Prairie’s madrigal feast consists of a five-course meal, each course served with a song.

This year’s madrigal dinner will take place Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m.

“This is my favorite event of the year,” McClellen said. “It’s a favorite event of a lot of the kids, too. It’s just something every different. There are very few schools who present madrigal dinners—very few. The kids know that it’s something special for our school and our community.”

While the dinner usually features 150-160 diners a night, McClellen said this year she’s limiting attendance to around 90 people. And while the dinner is usually served at long banquet-style tables, this year McClellen and the students will try to keep family groups together and distant from others.

“In general years, we would have sold 450 tickets already by now,” McClellen said. “But it’s a pandemic and I completely understand that it’s just a different time right now.” 

Diners obviously cannot wear their masks while eating, but attendees will be reminded to put their masks back on between courses. 

“The students wear masks all day every day, even during rehearsal. It’s a little bit different, trying to sing in a mask. It’s not the easiest thing but the kids have adapted quite well,” McClellen said. “We were able to get some specialty masks for singers. They’re huge, they look a little funny, I’ll admit, but they make singing much easier.”

McClellen said some of the magic of the madrigal dinner is that it isn’t a tradtional choral concert. 

“It’s not a normal show up, here’s your costume, sing your song and go home,” she said. “It’s a whole story for the evening.”

Plus, she said, it gives her a chance to learn more about who her students are outside of the classroom and outside of rehersals. 

“During that weekend, I get to learn more about the kids,” McClellen said. “Who are the kids who are going over to help clean up tables without being asked? Who is going back and forth to the kitchen to see what they need? It’s a very complex evening, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work just to make sure everything flows smoothly. It’s just something different and special.” 

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