The University is preparing to host its 45th annual Yuletide Feaste, featuring performances and a meal centered around 16th-century cuisine.
The Feaste will be held in the ballroom at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 in the J. W. Jones Student Union. The Feaste features performances by the Northwest Madraliers, the Recorder Consort and the Royale Brass Quintet.
Yuletide Feaste Director Brian Lanier said the Feaste is a reenactment of a Madrigal feast from the 16th century. He also said the event is a tradition that goes on both around the world and in the United States amongst schools and colleges.
“It (the Feaste) is an evening get together with a banquet with great food. Aramark prepares an array of food, a big prime rib, turkey and all kinds of wonderful food,” Lanier said. “Then the Madralies, which is a chamber choir here at Northwest, we set up on the stage and perform songs throughout the evening. We have a brass quintet that plays holiday music throughout the evening. We also have a recorder group, about 19 players that play recorders. So throughout the evening, there is entertainment, and then we have a king and queen who preside over the festivities.”
Lanier said the Feaste experience begins the moment people enter the building.
“At the beginning of the evening as people are coming into the Union building, we have four groups of singers stationed throughout the building so as people come in they hear Christmas carols going throughout the building,” Lanier said. “You can hear the music throughout the building, and then they come upstairs to the third floor and that is where we have transformed the ballroom to simulate a 16th-century castle’s big dining hall. We have all kinds of banners and decorations and trees and lights, and it is just a beautiful thing.”
Preparation for the Feaste begins at the beginning of the year and continues until the performance in December, Lanier said.
“We actually start planning it in August because that is when I select music that the choir will sing for the event and then we rehearse our music throughout the fall term,” Lanier said. “One day next week, in fact, we will take all of our set pieces. We’ve got tables and chairs, banners and lights, and they’re all down here (Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building) in the basement so we put them in the truck and take them over to the Union. Then on Sunday afternoon, on the second of December, we get in there, we work and set it up. “
Madraliers Section Leader junior Jaymie Argotsinger said a lot of work goes into preparing for the Feaste throughout the semester.
“We spend four hours a week rehearsing through the entire semester and when Feaste gets closer there is more time put into this show,” Argotsinger said.
Though the Feaste has been going on for decades now, Lanier said very little changes are made from year to year.
“Some of the music will change from year to year,” Lanier said. “We have had some theatrical productions like kind of a fractured fairytale play thing going on. But, this year we are not doing that, we are just going to feature a little bit more music in the second half of the evening. But, pretty much the formula for a Yuletide Feaste or a Madrigal dinner pretty much remains the same from year to year and place to place.”
Argotsinger said that very little changing each year is what keeps people coming to the Feaste.
“Little things change here and there from year to year, but part of what makes Yuletide Feaste so special is its traditions that we do every year,” Argotsinger said. “This is what keeps friends and family coming back year after year.”
Lanier said for a lot of people the Feaste marks the start of the holiday season.
“Many people say that their holiday season begins when they bring their family and friends to the Yuletide Feaste,” Lanier said. “So, it is a way to get into the spirit of Christmas and to have a great time, to hear wonderful music and just stop in the hustle and bustle of what is going on around us and instead slow down a bit and really enjoy the smells, the tastes, the music and the atmosphere that really make the holidays a special time.”
Argotsinger said one of her favorite things about the Feaste is the relationships she has been able to create.
“For me, Feaste gets better each year because I know the drill more and I have stronger and stronger relationships with everyone involved in Feaste,” Argotsinger said.
The Feaste is an immersive experience, and Argotsinger said she loves the fact she can get so involved.
“I love the show days. Getting dressed and putting on the old-timey clothes and then stepping out into our little renaissance world,” Argotsinger said. “I love getting to carol before the show and then, of course, getting to act and sing the rest of the night”
Lanier said the main goal of the Feaste is to just give audience members an enjoyable and memorable experience.
“The thing that we like to do is to bring some joy and happiness to people,” Lanier said. “Sometimes the holidays can be tough on some people and let's face it, society-wide we’ve been under some pressure here lately. So it gives people the chance to come hear some good music and just kind of meet new friends, spend some time with their own family and enjoy some great food. It really is a wonderful time.”
Tickets for the Yuletide Feaste cost $32 and can be purchased online or in the main office at the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building.