Carver Middle students offer a taste of the past

Madrigal dinner

Next month at Carver Middle School, area residents can experience more than dinner and a show – they can get a taste of the music, dance and culture of a time long passed.
On Dec. 16 and 17, Carver Middle School’s performing arts, visual arts and practical arts departments will come together to present a Madrigal Dinner. Each performance will take place at 7 p.m.; admission is $12 and tickets will only be sold in advance.

The medieval production is produced only once every three years, said Shirley Conley, the choral director at Carver Middle.
“In the curriculum, when I first began this, students were studying this time period, and so, to enhance the teaching, I incorporated it,” she said. “They just enjoy this time period.”

Admission to the event includes an all-you-can-eat dinner and entertainment, including a play with medieval dance and songs. The feast includes the “King of Chester” and his court, and about 150 students will participate in the production, according to information from Conley.
“There are many character parts: Knights that demonstrate a mock battle, a Jester performing tumbling and magic tricks, Ladies of the Court that inform the guests of the history of Medieval Feasts of old, a Herald that acts as the narrator, a gracious Queen and her two comical Monks,” according to information from Conley.

Dancers will perform Renaissance dance combined with contemporary dance, and the combined seventh- and eighth-grade choirs will perform a cappella selections during the play, she says. The Carver Middle orchestra, guitar ensemble, band soloists and drama students will perform, as will Thomas Dale High School’s chamber ensemble, Matoaca High School’s men’s choir and Bailey Bridge Middle School’s girls’ madrigal ensemble.

“We are the only middle school I know is in the state that performs a medieval feast,” Conley said. Some high schools do it, but few middle schools do, she said.
Courtney Berthiaume, an eighth-grade student, will portray the queen. Courtney said the medieval performance would be a different experience, because “the plays that we’ve done, they’re really kind of youthful.” For the Madrigal Dinner, performers will need to speak in a more formal, “kind of a Shakespearian” accent, she said.
The costumes are also more elaborate, she said.

“Actually, those are probably the most intricate costumes we’ve ever had,” she said. “This is really cool because they really do portray the characters.”
Patric Cox, an eighth grader who will play the king, said the costume did help him feel different and more regal. Patric and Courtney agreed that performing in a dinner theater setting would be a different experience than performing on a stage.

“They’re focused on us but they’re also focused on eating, so it’s not as much pressure on us,” Courtney said.
The feast, a three-course meal catered by Brock’s BBQ, will be served by students dressed in period costumes. Each performance will have a 100-seat capacity.

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