Morris and Coal City high schools will take a trip back in time for the holiday season with their annual Madrigal dinners happening the next two weekends.
Morris Community High School's sold-out dinner takes place tonight, Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1. Coal City High School's dinner will be held Dec. 7 through Dec. 9, and tickets are still available.
The Madrigal Choirs will put on Renaissance period Christmas dinner shows serving the time-period drink Wassail and hearing Renaissance music.
"They have been rehearsing since September," said Alyssa Napolitano, director of choirs at Morris High School. Napolitano wrote this year's play.
Their Madrigal Choir has 20 members. Included in the performance is the four-member girls' choir, as well. The students dress in Renaissance costumes and will put on a comical play where the king and queen are trying to find a suitor for their princess. Three knights compete for her love through three challenges.
The students rehearsed after school on Thursday for one last time. Napolitano spent some time with the three knights, fine-tuning their fight scene and mastering the art of fighting in slow-motion for a part of the scene.
Each knight has his own personality. The "sword happy" knight is being played by Adam Roseland, a sophomore; the "shy knight" by Austin Allbert, a sophomore; and the "conceited knight" by Josh Hosek, a senior.
In the end, the simple-minded princess, played by senior Jessie Eastman, follows her heart and chooses the "shy knight."
Eastman is involved in choir and in the plays at school. She loves Madrigals, which allows her to do both.
"It's fun, especially my senior year to really get involved with it," Eastman said. "I love singing, so to be able to be involved in something that has singing and acting, I really like it."
For Cole Enervold, a sophomore, this is his first year with the Madrigals. He plays "Lord Einstein," complete with an Albert Einstein-type wig and glasses.
"It has been a great experience," Enervold said.
Coal City High School students are also in the midst of preparing for their 14th annual Madrigal Banquet, which is set for Friday, Dec. 7 through Sunday, Dec. 9 at the school. Friday and Saturday's performances start at 7 p.m. and include dinner, while Sunday's performance is at 3 p.m. and includes a formal tea.
Tickets are $20 per person for adults and $15 per person for students or seniors over 60. Tickets are on sale through Monday. They may be purchased by contacting Director Sherfy Browning at (815) 634-2361 or Celeste Sheridan at (815) 634-2287, extension 2110.
Browning said the group of about 19 students will sing a program of about 20 songs, ranging from 14th and 15th century Renaissance and Medieval-era tunes, some in German and French, as well as some 20th century songs and some hymns and carols. The program will also include an original Medieval-themed comedic play.
Coal City High School's south gym has been transformed into a medieval castle, and the group will wear period clothing, too, she said.
Browning said the group of students are dedicated and excited to show off their hard work.
"This is something they have a passion for, and they work their rear ends off from August to December," Browning said.
She said the annual performances are a tremendous amount of work and require commitment from the students, who must master a higher level of music.
"It's very challenging — I have very high expectations, and they always rise to meet those expectations because the payoff is so great," she said.
She said that seeing everything come together for the students is her favorite part of the banquet.
"My favorite part is when it clicks together for the group. When they get that payoff, the looks on their faces is priceless," she said. "They're so proud of themselves and excited about it."